3/3/09 Edition

March Mania Edition
AMADEUS & Other Oscar Winners in HD
Plus: GOODBYE MR CHIPS '69 and More

With the Academy Awards still fresh in viewers’ minds, this is a good time to revisit past Oscar winners, several of which have been newly released on Blu-Ray in spiffy new high-definition transfers.

If it weren’t for Laurence Olivier famously fumbling his announcement of the Best Picture category, Oscar night for Milos Forman’s AMADEUS (****, 180 mins., 1984, R [originally PG]; Warner) couldn’t have possibly been more perfect: the opulent adaptation of Peter Shaffer’s play copped eight Oscars in a terrific year for movies, winning in all of its nominated categories except Cinematography and Editing, where it lost to “The Killing Fields.”

Long one of my favorite films, “Amadeus” is mostly regarded as a speculative fiction (or a total fiction in certain respects) on the part of Shaffer, chronicling the relationship between brash musical prodigy Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Tom Hulce) and Austrian court composer Antonio Salieri (Oscar-winner F. Murray Abraham), who watches as his younger and seemingly less hard-working contemporary effortlessly creates timeless works of art while Salieri consistently fails to earn the distinction that Mozart does -- even when he’s not even trying. It’s a lavish spectacle filled with gorgeous locales, sets, costumes and, naturally, music as adapted by Sir Neville Mariner, but it’s also a timeless story with a central subject matter relevant to the human condition regardless of its time frame.

While I’m not overly fond of the “Director’s Cut,” which restores 20 minutes of footage to a film that always seemed perfect to this viewer in its Oscar-winning theatrical edit, Warner has chosen to issue “Amadeus” on Blu-Ray only in this expanded form. The result is a good-looking, if a bit glossy, HD transfer that seems just a bit restricted in its crispness by noise reduction that was employed to “smooth over” the image. Overall, though, colors are strong, blacks are deep and “Amadeus” has never looked so good on home video, while the thundering Dolby TrueHD soundtrack provides a gorgeous stereophonic soundscape when called upon. Extras, culled from the prior DVD release, include a fine commentary track with Forman and Shaffer, plus an hour-long Making Of documentary and the original trailer. The disc is housed in one of Warner’s nifty “digibook” hardbound packages, complete with full-color stills, production notes and both a bonus CD sampler of the bestselling soundtrack and a digital copy for portable media players bundled with the release.

Richard Attenorough’s GANDHI (***½, 191 mins., 1982, PG; Sony) is one of those respected Oscar winners that, as the years have passed, has diminished in visibility compared to some of its fellow nominees (not just Steven Spielberg’s “E.T.” but also, arguably, the Dustin Hoffman-Sydney Pollack comedy “Tootsie” and Paul Newman in Sidney Lumet’s “The Verdict”).

It’s still a stately, regal production with an outstanding cast (“guest stars” Candice Bergen, Edward Fox, John Gielgud, Trevor Howard, John Mills and Martin Sheen) and a deserved Oscar-winning performance from Ben Kingsley as the iconic figure, backed by gorgeous visuals (captured by cinematographers Billy Williams and Ronnie Taylor), a fine score by George Fenton and a John Briley screenplay that chronicles Mohandas Gandhi’s life and transition from lawyer to spiritual leader of his nation.

Sony’s Blu-Ray disc goes a long way to reestablishing “Gandhi”’s cinematic scope at home: Attenborough’s visuals look spectacular in HD compared to past video and TV prints I’ve seen of the picture, while the Dolby TrueHD audio is superb, even if it’s not as potent as, say, the more aggressive mix of a picture like “Amadeus.” Extras include a Blu-Ray exclusive picture-in-graphics historical track as well as extras from prior releases on a second disc, including commentary from Attenborough and an on-camera introduction from the director, numerous, extensive Making Of featurettes and vintage newsreel footage.

For those who might believe that only large-scale epics and action movies gain the most from high-definition transfers, one only needs to look at a Blu-Ray release like Sony’s new KRAMER VS. KRAMER (***½, 105 mins., 1979, PG) to see evidence to the contrary.

Robert Benton’s 1979 Oscar winner is a beautifully acted, painfully real tale of a man (Dustin Hoffman) whose wife (Meryl Streep) leaves him, putting him in sole charge of their young son (Justin Henry), only to have her later re-appear -- and demand custody of their child. It’s a straightforward and yet devastating story adapted from Avery Corman’s book by the director, and gracefully acted both by Hoffman (winning the first of his two Oscars) and Meryl Streep (who likewise took home her first Academy Award here for Best Supporting Actress).

Sony’s AVC encoded Blu-Ray transfer of “Kramer Vs. Kramer” is excellent: the crispness of the image heightens Nestor Almendros’ naturalistic cinematography, though the Dolby TrueHD audio can do little to enhance the fidelity of a flat late ‘70s stereo mix. While the film’s presentation is superb, extras are sparse, with just a solid, earlier hour-long documentary on-hand that dissects the picture’s production from both cast and crew members.

One of the strong performances Hoffman beat out for his “Kramer Vs. Kramer” Oscar -- Peter Sellers as the gardener Chance in BEING THERE (***, 130 mins., 1979, PG; Warner) -- has also been newly released on Blu-Ray in an excellent package from Warner Home Video.

Sellers is brilliant in this Hal Ashby-directed adaptation of Jerzy Kosinski’s novel (scripted by the author for the screen), and Warner’s Blu-Ray disc offers a satisfying VC-1 encoded transfer of the film with a monophonic Dolby TrueHD soundtrack and several excellent features: an alternate ending and several recently discovered deleted scenes, plus a gag reel, the trailer, and a Making Of featurette that recounts the production of this memorable, gentle comic drama with one of its star’s finest performances.

Also New On Blu-Ray

RONIN (***½, 121 mins., 1998, R; MGM/Fox): Director John Frankenheimer’s last great film, MGM has finally brought their Blu-Ray edition of “Ronin” to the U.S. after a myriad of international releases since the format’s inception. Regrettably this bare-bones Blu-Ray release hasn’t been updated at all, looking and sounding like the sort blah first-generation BD title Fox and MGM have since improved immeasurably upon.

As far as the movie itself goes, Frankenheimer's realistically filmed and impressively staged action sequences -- which were a precursor to (and possible influence on) the “Bourne” pictures -- were seldom more effective than they were in “Ronin,” a low-key, taut, and decidedly old-fashioned thriller that enabled the director to concentrate on what he does best -- provide excitement without padded exposition or reliance on visual effects. Nowadays in particular, it's refreshing to see a film that is fully satisfied to create a skillfully told, if leisurely, tale that wouldn't have been made any different thirty years before.

Robert DeNiro and Jean Reno are the principal leads in the simple, straightforward and uncluttered plot, co-written by David Mamet under a pseudonym, which could be best described as a more realistic rendition of the James Bond movies some years after the fact, in that the characters are former mercenaries and government employees, but seeking work in a world where the employers and secret packages are more suspect and deadlier than ever.

The performances of DeNiro, Reno, Natascha McElhone ("The Truman Show"), and Jonathan Pryce give the material the required nuance, double-crossing and deceit that it needs, but it's really Frankenheimer's show all the way. The French locales add immeasurably to the atmosphere and mood of the picture, while the car chase sequences -- much discussed and lauded by critics and fans -- deliver the goods in such a manner that you wonder why many prerequisite auto pursuits are so bland by comparison. With crisp editing and a pounding pace, Frankenheimer illustrated that pure filmmaking beats CGI, blue-screen, and other modern forms of filmmaking trickery any day of the week. From Nice to the tunnels of Paris, Frankenheimer evokes favorable comparisons to the equally dizzying set-pieces of his more memorable films ("French Connection II," "Black Sunday") with the movie’s two extended, masterfully executed car chases, which certainly rank as some of the finest action filmmaking of the '90s.

Unlike Fox’s newer BD discs with AVC encoded transfers, “Ronin” sports a 25GB Blu-Ray platter with an MPEG-2 transfer that’s good but not spectacular, along with DTS Master Audio sound and, most telling of all, no extras of any kind! Forget the original DVD’s alternate ending and commentary, or any of the extensive extras from a subsequent 2006 Special Edition -- there’s nothing on here at all, making this a title that shows just how far Fox and MGM have come in the last year or so in terms of enhancing their Blu-Ray discs.

VANISHING POINT (**½, 99 [U.S.] and 106 [U.K.] mins., 1971, R; Fox): Weird “counter-culture” action vehicle from director Richard C. Sarafian offers a skeletal story involving anti-hero driver Barry Newman, a former cop and Vietnam vet speeding from Denver to San Francisco with the authorities in hot pursuit and only a sympathetic radio DJ (Cleavon Little) offering much in the way of support.       

There’s not much else narratively  to “Vanishing Point,” with the big stars being the car chase sequences well shot by Sarafian and cinematographer John A. Alonzo, plus an often ironic period soundtrack peppered with songs. Though the film has generated a cult following over the years I found “Vanishing Point” to be an interesting, yet dated and pretentious work only occasionally livened up by its action and the appearance of Charlotte Rampling, who pops up in a sequence only retained in the UK theatrical version of the picture.

“Vanishing Point” might seem to be an odd choice to receive the Blu-Ray treatment at this stage of the format’s lifespan, yet because Fox has issued several films with vivid auto sequences in HD over the last week (“Ronin” above and the two “French Connection” films), it’s likely that loose connection explains this cult flick’s release on Blu at this time. Fans of the movie ought to be pleased with the AVC encoded transfer and DTS Master Audio soundtrack, with both cuts of the movie on-hand, as well as a number of supplements, including commentary with Sarafian, trailers and TV Spots, a trivia track and other Making Of featurettes.

FUTURAMA - INTO THE WILD GREEN YONDER (89 mins., 2009; Fox): The latest feature-length follow-up to Matt Groening’s Fox animated series -- which has generated a solid amount of fans in spite of its lukewarm broadcast ratings – offers another colorful continuation of the series for its admirers. Personally, I’ve never cared for “Futurama” so I’ll leave it to its fans to weigh in on how entertaining “Into the Wild Green Yonder” is, though I can tell you Fox’s Blu-Ray disc offers a splendid AVC encoded transfer with DTS Master Audio sound plus commentary from the show’s creators, picture-in-picture BD exclusive video commentary, numerous featurettes and deleted scenes.

SOUTH PARK - Season 12 DVD & Blu-Ray (308 mins., 2008, Paramount): The South Park gang hit Blu-Ray for the first time in a daffy box-set compiling the series’ 14 twelfth-season episodes. Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s series is still a gas after all these years, with episodes here riffing on everything from the election to “High School Musical” and “Twilight,” while still sprinkling in a few eccentric episodes of completely original zaniness, such as the memorable two-part episode “Pandemic,” where the world is threatened by pan flute bands!

Paramount brings Season 12 of “South Park” to both DVD and Blu-Ray next week. To be honest, this isn’t a situation where the Blu-Ray offers a massive upgrade on the DVD, since the cut-rate animation is one of the series’ charms, and as such, only looks a bit crisper and more colorful in HD. That said, if you have a Blu-Ray player, the BD version is still the way to go, with Dolby TrueHD audio offered in place of the standard DVD’s 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks.

Extras across both platforms are numerous, including “mini-commentaries” from Parker and Stone, behind-the-scenes featurettes and Making Of segments, including one offered here in HD.

BEVERLY HILLS CHIHUAHUA: DVD & Blu-Ray (**½, 91 mins., 2008, G; Disney): Cute enough Disney fare follows a pampered Beverly Hills Chihuahua (voiced by Drew Barrymore) who gets lost in Mexico while on vacation with her owner’s niece (Piper Perabo). Ultimately little Chloe is saved by a heroic German Shepherd (the “vocal talents” of Andy Garcia) and meets a tribe of ancient Chihuahuas along the way. There’s not much to “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” except that the visual effects are fairly good, the film moves along at a decent pace and director Raja Gosnell knows his target audience well enough not to linger too long at the party. It’s silly, brainless but also painless fun for kids, who along with their parents helped turn the movie into a massive $90 million hit at the box-office last fall. Disney’s DVD includes a rock-solid 16:9 (2.35) transfer with 5.1 Dolby Digital sound, while the Blu-Ray boasts an even more potent AVC encoded presentation plus the added benefit of uncompressed PCM sound. Extras on both platforms include deleted scenes, bloopers, commentary from Gosnell, and an animated “Legend of the Chihuahua” short, while the Blu-Ray also offers exclusive extras including a segment on the voices behind the dogs, additional deleted scenes, an on-set featurette and announced BD-Live bonuses.

Also out from Disney this week on DVD is a new Special Edition of AIR BUD (**½, 98 mins., 1997, G), the original tale about Buddy, a golden retriever with an uncanny ability to knock down hoops. Producer Robert Vince’s first film may not have felt like the start of an extended series of family features, but it’s enjoyable, harmless entertainment for children and Disney has packaged this new edition of “Air Bud” with a “Dog-U-Commentary” from the “Buddies” puppies, the original trailer, a new 16:9 (1.85) transfer, 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack, and collectible “Buddy” dog tag.

SEX DRIVE: DVD & Blu-Ray (**½, 109 mins/129 mins., 2008, R/NR; Summit): Box-office flop sold as a juvenile sex comedy is actually more of an ‘80s-flavored teen movie dressed up with the requisite raunchy gags audiences today have become accustomed to. That said, director Sean Anders (who wrote the movie with John Morris) has at least fashioned an energetic and good-natured comedy that finds a trio of likeable characters -- an 18-year-old hapless virgin (Josh Zuckerman), his best-female-friend (Amanda Crew) and horndog pal (“Greek”’s hilarious Clark Duke) -- embarking on a road trip so Zuckerman can meet up with an online girlfriend who wants to, of course, go “all the way” (also the name of Andy Behrens’ book upon which the film is based). Their journey is, naturally, filled with colorful encounters, including a sarcastic Amish guy played by Seth Green who has a penchant for fixing broken-down cars! Though not every gag works, “Sex Drive” is fairly inspired for its genre, and also gets a boost from James Marsden’s high-energy performance as Zuckerman’s obnoxious older brother. Summit’s Blu-Ray and DVD packages both include the original R-rated theatrical cut and an amusing, if overlong, 129-minute Unrated version with discarded sequences and even more offensive material (I recommend sticking with the R-rated original version, which is long enough as is). The 16:9 (1.85) transfer on the DVD is sound, while the Blu-Ray looks even more impressive with its 1080p presentation. Regrettably, audio on the BD isn’t much different than the DVD, offering only a plain 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack on both versions of the picture. Extras include commentary from Anders and Morris plus three short, if amusing, behind-the-scenes vignettes.

I’VE LOVED YOU SO LONG (***, 117 mins., 2008, PG-13; Sony): Kristin Scott Thomas gives a superb performance in this French import as a woman, recently released from prison, who tries to reconnect with her younger sister (a similarly excellent performance by Elsa Zylberstein), her husband and their children, and ease back into the continuity of life in the process – all the while facing questions about the nature of her crimes. Philippe Claudel’s film moves leisurely through its two hours and doesn’t offer too many shocking revelations, but the conviction of its performances make for a compelling character drama. Sony’s Blu-Ray disc includes a finely-hued 1080p AVC encoded transfer with Dolby TrueHD audio and extras including deleted scenes with optional commentary from Claudel, and both French and English dialogue tracks (the latter with Scott Thomas, naturally, voicing her character).

PRIMAL FEAR: DVD & Blu-Ray (**½, 130 mins., 1996, R; Paramount): Edward Norton first broke onto the scene in this well-executed, if not overly memorable, 1996 courtroom thriller as an altar boy convicted of murdering a Catholic archbishop, and represented by an arrogant, media-savvy defense attorney (Richard Gere) who becomes a bit conflicted by his client’s behavior. A marvelous supporting cast, including Laura Linney, John Mahoney, Frances McDormand, Alfre Woodard, Terry O’Quinn, and Andre Braugher lend a great deal of class to Gregory Hoblit’s adaptation of William Diehl’s novel, but in the end “Primal Fear” isn’t any more substantial than your typical episode of “Law & Order,” just with superior cinematic trappings and excellent performances from both Norton and Gere. Paramount is issuing “Primal Fear” in a new Special Edition DVD and Blu-Ray set next week; both the 16:9 (1.85) DVD and 1080p BD transfer nicely reproduce Michael Chapman’s original cinematography, while 5.1 Dolby Digital (DVD) and Dolby TrueHD (BD) audio faithfully replicate the film’s mostly subdued audio mix. Extras include commentary from Hoblit, co-screenwriter Ann Biderman and other members of the production team, the original trailer, and a fresh Making Of featurette split into several self-contained sequences, including a dissection of a discarded subplot.

TRANSPORTER 3 (**, 104 mins., 2008, PG-13; Lionsgate): Jason Statham is Frank Martin yet again in the formulaic, yet still watchable, third installment in the moderately popular action franchise, directed here by the aptly-named “Olivier Megaton.” Lionsgate’s Blu-Ray edition of “Transporter 3" boasts a terrific AVC encoded transfer with DTS Master audio sound, while the DVD sports a rock-solid 16:9 (2.35) transfer with 5.1 Dolby Digital sound. Extras housed on both versions include commentary from Megaton (I keep writing Megatron, I can’t help it!), a Making Of featurette, other assorted behind-the-scenes material including storyboards, and BD-exclusive “MoLog” activities.

Vintage Titles on DVD

EAST OF EDEN (1981, Acorn Media): ABC mini-series adaptation of John Steinbeck’s novel hasn’t aged quite as well as the network’s gargantuan undertaking of John Jakes’ “North and South” novels, but it’s still an entertaining, classy production from an era in which the television mini-series was a true viewing event.

Jane Seymour has the show’s breakout performance here as the conniving femme fatale who causes a rift between brothers Timothy Bottoms and Bruce Boxleitner, leading to a subsequent generational confrontation between their sons Sam Bottoms and Hart Bochner. Supporting roles from Karen Allen to Lloyd Bridges, Howard Duff, Anne Baxter, and Warren Oates add a good amount of support to this three-part, six-hours plus production, which is further enhanced by a gorgeous Lee Holdridge score.

Acorn’s long-awaited DVD presentation of “East of Eden” looks just fine, while a new, exclusive interview with Seymour will prove to be of interest for the show’s fans.

GOODBYE MR. CHIPS (***, 154 mins., 1969, G; Warner): Producer Arthur P. Jacobs and director Herbert Ross’ 1969 musicalization of the James Hilton novel has been something of a polarizing title for musical aficionados: while Leslie Bricusse’s lovely score is filled with haunting thematic material and lyrical songs (all of them brilliantly orchestrated by John Williams), the film itself isn’t as satisfying, lumbering along for over two and a half hours and coming across like it was embarrassed to be a musical, with numerous songs either cut or trimmed, or shot as montages instead of actual “musical numbers.” In spite of its semi-identity crisis, “Goodbye Mr. Chips” ‘69 is nevertheless a satisfyingly old-fashioned adaptation of the classic story, atmospherically lensed by Oswald Morris and splendidly acted by Peter O’Toole as Mr. Chipping.

MGM/UA previously restored the “Roadshow” version of “Goodbye Mr. Chips” for laserdisc back in the ‘90s. That print was compiled from the best available sources, some of which showed their age and certainly looked inferior to other portions of the transfer. For their long-awaited DVD release, Warner Home Video has done the best they could to further improve on that edition, and the results are mostly quite satisfying: the 16:9 (2.35) transfer is much sharper and better framed than the laserdisc, with whatever “softness” there exists in the image likely being more a result of how the film was photographed than an issue with the transfer itself. The 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack works best during the musical numbers, with the dialogue and quieter sections of the picture being a bit erratic in their fidelity by comparison.

Trailers for both the 1939 version and the 1969 release are on-hand here, though disappointingly, Warners missed the opportunity to include a half-hour promo featurette that often screens on Turner Classic Movies, offering some glimpses into the creative process and alternate musical performances than what ended up in the finished film.

CANNERY ROW (**½, 120 mins., 1982, PG; Warner): Writer-director David S. Ward might’ve struck out at the box-office with his 1982 adaptation of John Steinbeck’s novels “Cannery Row” and “Sweet Thursday,” but the movie itself has aged rather well: a deliberately old-fashioned period romance between marine biologist Nick Nolte and Debra Winger, a floozy new to the colorful coastal town of Cannery Row. John Huston’s flavorful narration sets the scene, while a fine supporting cast (Audra Lindley, M. Emmet Walsh, Frank McRae), Sven Nykvist’s cinematography and an effective underscore by Jack Nitzsche combine to make this an appealing, if flawed, romantic comedy that’s not nearly as unwatchable as its disastrous reception would lead you to believe. Warner’s DVD of this MGM release sports a fine 16:9 (1.85) transfer with mono sound and the original trailer.

DODES’KA-DEN (***, 140 mins., 1970; Criterion): Even certain aficionados of the great Akira Kurosawa may not be familiar with this 1970 work from the master fimmaker, which examines the lives of a group of lower-class individuals living in a slum outside of Tokyo. This first foray into color filmmaking from Kurosawa -- and his first project in some five years at the time of its release -- seems to have been met with mixed reaction from scholars and viewers, but while it may not be one of his classic works, “Dodes’ka-Den” is nevertheless a well-acted and vibrantly told character study that Criterion has perfectly captured on DVD.

Presented in its original 1.33 presentation with mono sound, “Dodes’Ka-Den” looks remarkably fresh on disc, while extras include more segments from the Japanese documentary “Akira Kurosawa: It’s Wonderful to Create,” along with the trailer and extensive booklet notes. Recommended for Kurosawa fans.

Also New on DVD

ALIEN RAIDERS (**, 85 mins., 2009, R; Warner): Warner’s latest “Raw Feed” direct-to-video horror outing is certainly an improvement on the “Rest Stop” franchise, though Ben Rock’s feature about an extraterrestrial invasion and supermarket shoppers feels a bit too close to “The Mist” to really satisfy. A slumming Carlos Bernard (“24"’s Tony Almeida, who likely took the gig because a former colleague of that series, Tony Krantz, is a Raw Feed producer) appears in a thankless starring role here, but give credit to writers David Simkins and Julia Fair for at least keeping your interest until the bottom falls out during a distressingly predictable “twist” ending. Warner’s DVD offers a satisfying 16:9 (2.35) transfer with 5.1 Dolby Digital sound and ample special features (Making Of featurettes, etc.) on-hand.

SCARLETT JOHANSSON COLLECTION (Lionsgate): Three-DVD box-set offers a trio of Johansson’s earlier starring vehicles: her early role in Eva Gardos’ “An American Rhapsody” (2001), plus the 2004 feature “A Good Woman” (2004) with Helen Hunt and Tom Wilkinson, and the critical favorite “Girl With The Pearl Earring.” Extras, transfers and soundtracks are all reprieved from the prior DVD releases of each film.

WILDFIRE Season 3 (539 mins., 2007; Lionsgate): Season three of the popular ABC Family series hits DVD in a box-set with 16:9 (1.78) transfers, 2.0 Dolby Stereo soundtracks, and select episode commentaries with the cast and crew.

MY WIFE AND KIDS Season 1 (264 mins., 2009; Lionsgate): Damon Wayans’ sitcom also hits DVD this month from Lionsgate, with the studio’s double-disc set offering its complete first season in 16:9 (1.78) transfers and 2.0 Dolby Digital soundtracks.

IRONWEED (143 mins., 1987, R; Republic/Lionsgate): Jack Nicholson earned an Oscar nomination for his role in this downbeat 1987 Hector Babenco period drama -- scripted by William Kennedy from his novel -- co-starring Meryl Streep and Tom Waits and hauntingly scored by John Morris. Republic’s DVD of “Ironweed” offers, lamentably, just an okay full-screen transfer and 2.0 stereo sound, with no extras, making for a dank disc of an appropriately gloomy picture.

RICK AND STEVE - Season 2 (176 mins., 2008-09; Paramount): Logo Channel animated series -- most definitely not for kids! -- about the “happiest gay couple in the world” and their assorted friends hits DVD again in a Season 2 box-set offering eight episodes, bonus shorts, cast interviews and other irreverent “gay crap!” (as the packaging describes), plus full-screen transfers and stereo soundtracks.

THE HILLS - Season 4 (392 mins., 2008; Paramount): Lauren, Audrina, Lo and the gang are back for another year of scandalous “reality” television from MTV. Season 4 for the ever-popular program arrives on DVD in a three-disc set from Paramount, offering 4:3 widescreen transfers, deleted scenes, interviews, photo shoot footage, the “Virtual Hills” and other extras for fans.

HIS NAME WAS JASON (90 mins., 2009; Anchor Bay): For-fans-only documentary recounts the production of the “Friday the 13th” films offering a cavalcade of interviews with the series’ leading ladies, directors, make-up experts and fans among others. Loads of extras from fan films to bonus interviews, as well as a $5 coupon to see the new remake (quick! before it exits theaters), round out the disc, which features a 16:9 (1.78) transfer, 5.1 Dolby Digital audio, and some four hours of bonus features.

THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS (**½, 94 mins., 2008, PG-13; Miramax): Adaptation of John Boyne’s book about a young boy who befriends a Jew on the other side of a concentration camp fence is well-acted and produced, with a mostly subdued James Horner score. However, the quasi-fairy tale tone of writer-director Mark Herman’s adaptation makes for an odd film-going experience with a bleak ending that makes it best left for older children with parental supervision. The messages are commendable but as a movie it’s not entirely satisfying. Buena Vista’s DVD includes deleted scenes, commentary and a Making Of featurette, plus a 16:9 (1.85) transfer with 5.1 Dolby Digital sound.

HAPPY GO-LUCKY (119 mins., 2008, R; Miramax): Mike Leigh’s newest film hits DVD from Miramax in a 16:9 (2.35) transfer with 5.1 Dolby Digital sound, and extras including commentary from the director and two Making Of featurettes.

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