- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Something of a Brazilian “Boyz N the Hood,” the 2002 import City of God, new from Miramax Home Entertainment ($29.99), fully lives up to its advance theatrical acclaim. It’s our …

DVD pick of the week

The film, drawn from Paulo Lins’ fact-based novel, presents a panoramic portrait of life and (usually violent) death in Rio de Janeiro’s notorious eponymous slum district.

In the ‘70s, protagonist “Rocket” (Alexandre Rodrigues), a largely law-abiding teenager who dreams of becoming a professional photographer, walks a narrow line among the competing drug gangs who turn City of God into a bloody war zone.

Causing much of the mayhem is an ambitious, sociopathic one-man wrecking crew named Li’l Ze (Leandro Firmino), who recruits an armed posse of reckless youths to eliminate the competition.

Co-directors Fernando Meirelles and Katia Lund employ rapid-fire MTV-style cutting to visually paraphrase the various factions’ complex maneuvers. As depicted here, the police offer little protection for the ghetto’s honest residents, showing up only to conduct headline-grabbing raids or to form corrupt alliances with the gangs.

Rocket’s own ultimately upbeat central story thread keeps the film from turning utterly grim, but the ugly picture on view is in no way diluted by his quest for a better life.

Indeed, a supplemental documentary, News from a Personal War, incorporating vintage interviews with some of the fictionalized dealers’ real-life models, candidly demonstrates that little has changed since Rocket’s day. While a supplementary filmmakers’ audio commentary would have been welcome, “City of God” arrives as a devastating document that eloquently speaks for itself.

Tele-video

The TV-to-DVD deluge continues with a fresh wave of teleseries old and new hitting video stores. MGM Home Entertainment goes the supernatural route with the darkly witty Dead Like Me: The Complete First Season ($58.96), a four-disc set incorporating cast audio commentary, deleted scenes, featurettes and more.

Comic curmudgeon Larry David returns in Curb Your Enthusiasm: The Complete Second Season (HBO Video, $39.98), a double-disc release offering all 10 Season 2 episodes.

Shout! Factory, meanwhile, goes all out with its much appreciated SCTV Network Volume 1 ($89.98), a five-disc extravaganza containing nine 90-minute episodes of the classic 1980s comedy series, along with commentaries, featurettes and more.

Elsewhere, Columbia/TriStar Home Entertainment debuts the Vietnam-set combat series Tour of Duty: The Complete First Season in a five-disc set ($49.95), while 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment focuses on Korea with its M*A*S*H: Season Six Collector’s Edition ($39.98), starring Alan Alda and the entire 4077 crew.

Finally, Scott Bakula time-travels with a little help from his friend Dean Stockwell in the three-disc Quantum Leap: The Complete First Season (Universal Studios Home Video, $59.98), with cast and crew interviews and other extras.

The ‘A’ list

Theatrical films making their home video bows include the Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore Hawaii-set farce 50 First Dates (Columbia/TriStar, $28.95) in a special edition complete with director and cast commentary, featurettes, deleted scenes, a gag reel and more.

The scene shifts from the tropics to an alpine Peru in the harrowing docudrama Touching the Void (MGM Home Entertainment, $29.98), recreating two climbers’ real-life brush with death; the disc comes equipped with three featurettes.

On the indie front, Miramax Home Entertainment introduces the character study The Station Agent ($29.99), starring Peter Dinklage and Patricia Clarkson in an extras-enhanced edition.

Collectors’ corner

Columbia/TriStar Home Entertainment resurrects a trio of worthy titles on DVD:

• British horror stars Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee are in top intense form in Freddie Francis’ droll, offbeat 1973 chiller The Creeping Flesh ($24.95).

• Cliff Robertson writes, directs and stars in the previous year’s deft rodeo drama J.W. Coop.

• Glenn Ford plays a rare villainous (indeed, downright psychopathic) role in the edgy 1948 Technicolor Western The Man From Colorado ($19.98 each), co-starring William Holden and Ellen Drew.

MGM Home Entertainment offers a bonus-enriched edition of Ang Lee’s perceptive 1993 social comedy The Wedding Banquet, along with the Fatty Arbuckle-based 1975 drama The Wild Party ($19.98 each), with James Coco and Raquel Welch.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Any idea if the 1976 miniseries Rich Man, Poor Man will be released on DVD anytime soon? Also, trying to find the Vic Morrow Combat World War II series made in 1962-67 on DVD.

Lynn McDonald, Alexandria.

No word yet on “Rich Man Poor Man,” but Movies Unlimited (www.moviesunlimited.com) has two volumes of “Combat” episodes ($18.99 each), while Image Entertainment will be releasing the more comprehensive collections “Combat — Season 1, Campaign 1” and “Campaign 2” ($39.95 per four-DVD set) on July 20.

Send your video comments and queries to Phantom of the Movies, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002 or e-mail us at: phanmedia@aol.com. Check out the Web site (www.videoscopemag.com).

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