- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 3, 2004

Arguably the most remarkable — and rewarding — documentary series ever undertaken, Michael Apted’s four-decade, six-film The Up Series arrives in a single sterling new five-disc set via First Run Features ($99.95). It’s our…

DVD pick of the week

The project began in 1964 as a relatively humble, hour-long British TV documentary, wherein fledgling filmmaker Apted queried 14 7-year-old children from all strata of society about their views of the world, their culture and themselves. The finished product, 7 Up, so galvanized the British viewing public that Mr. Apted revisited his subjects for the 1971 sequel, 14 Up.

From there, the subsequent feature films — 21 Up, 28 Up, 35 Up and 42 Up — continued to chart the changes experienced by East Ender Tony, who became a cab driver following a failed stint as a jockey; middle-class Neil, who went from chirpy child to deeply troubled drifter; upper-crust Cathy, who spurned a career path for marriage and motherhood; and the rest of the “Up” gang.

Anything but a dry timeline, Mr. Apted’s series is fraught with raw emotions and radical surprises as his series evolved as a more honest precursor of today’s rampant “reality” TV.

As with any strong ongoing drama with a charismatic cast, it’s impossible not to get caught up in the vagaries of the “Up” subjects’ lives and the mirror they hold to our own. For “42 Up,” Mr. Apted — who’s also found time to helm such high-profile Hollywood fiction films as “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “Gorillas in the Mist” and the James Bond blockbuster “The World Is Not Enough” — provides an informative audio commentary that explores his own complex, now nearly life-long relationships with his adopted “extended family.”

Is a “49 Up” in the offing? We put that very query to Michael Apted in a recent phone interview.

“I’m beginning now to get ‘round to ringing them up and saying, ‘We’re off again,’ ” he said. “I just know it’s the most significant, original and important work I’ll ever do, so I just have to make the time to do it.”

In the meantime, “The Up Series” gives fans a chance to prepare for that seventh installment.

Tele-video

In the rampaging TV-on-DVD blitz, this week Paramount Home Entertainment blasts off with the seven-disc Star Trek, The Original Series: The Complete Second Season, with more than three hours of fresh special features, while one of the pioneering sci-fi series’ many spawn, Star Trek Voyager: The Complete Fifth Season ($129.99 each), beams down in a bonus-equipped seven-disc set next week.

Closer to Earth, NBC Home Entertainment returns to frontier days with the long-running Michael Landon series Little House on the Prairie: Season 6 ($49.98), a six-disc set offering select audio commentary and new cast interviews, while Warner Home Video visits contemporary Orange County in the bonus-packed seven-disc The OC: The Complete First Season ($69.98).

Warner also has the Civil War mini-series North and South: The Complete Collection ($69.98) in a three-disc set with an all-new retrospective documentary. Warner selects this election week to release the White House-centered series West Wing: The Complete Third Season ($59.98), a five-disc set complete with audio commentary, documentaries and more.

The ‘A’ list

Comedies dominate the theatrical-to-disc slate:

• Sacha Baron Cohen co-writes and assumes the eponymous dim white hip-hopper role in the British import Ali G Indahouse (Universal Studios Home Entertainment, $27.98).

• Jackie Chan and Steve Coogan go the hot-air-balloon route in the action-comedy remake Around the World in 80 Days (Walt Disney Home Entertainment, $29.99).

• Shawn and Marlon Wayans pull a double ethnic and gender switch as White Chicks (Columbia/TriStar Home Entertainment, $28.95). All three arrive with copious extras.

Video verite

In fresh documentary developments, Docurama debuts the multiple-award-winning Andy Goldsworthy Rivers and Tides ($26.95), a feature-length meditation on the relationship between art and nature. Sports takes center stage in two new discs: the gridiron golden oldie The Super Bowl Shuffle: 20th Anniversary Collector’s Edition (MPI Home Video, $9.98) and The Wimbledon Video Collection: The 2004 Official Film (Kultur Video, $24.95).

Foreign fare

Kino Video (kino.com) celebrates French filmmaker Bertrand Tavernier with two of the auteur’s vintage titles, both starring Philippe Noiret: the 1974 18th-century period piece Let Joy Reign Supreme and 1989’s Life and Nothing But, set in post-World War I France. The extras-enriched editions are tagged at $29.95 each.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Any chance of finding the Salvador Dali film Un Chien Andalou on DVD?

David Kaye, via e-mail

“Un Chien Andalou,” co-directed by Luis Bunuel, is available on VHS only, on a double bill with Mr. Bunuel’s Land Without Bread#, via Kino Video ($24.95, kino.com).

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 our Web site at www.videoscopemag.com.

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