- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 13, 2005

While it barely registered a blip on the megaplex radar screen during its limited 2004 theatrical run, Gregory Jacobs’ Criminal ($27.95), out this week via Warner Home Video, shapes up as a twisty, breathless caper that’s sure to captivate digital thriller fans. It’s our…

DVD pick of the week

A remake of Argentina’s “Nine Queens,” “Criminal” stars dependable character thesp John C. Reilly as professional L.A. con artist Richard, who takes rookie crook Rodrigo (Diego Luna) under his shady wing. While showing Rodrigo the ropes via a series of small-time scams, Richard happens upon a far more lucrative opportunity to bilk a visiting tycoon and rare-currency collector (Peter Mullan) out of a sizable sum.

As more accomplices and foes enter the fray, the viewer is continually thrown off balance re who’s zooming whom in the movie’s growing pyramid of deception. Director Jacobs and co-writer Sam Lowry guide their flavorful, fast-paced tale to a satisfying conclusion in a streamlined 86 minutes refreshingly free of filler.

In addition to Messrs. Reilly and Luna, Maggie Gyllenhall turns in strong work as Richard’s hostile sister Valerie, while a solid supporting cast hits nary a false note. Warner’s disc arrives sans extras, but “Criminal” speaks quite eloquently for itself.

Tele-video

Universal Home Entertainment leads the way in a busy TV-on-DVD week with three box sets focusing on vintage cathode action adventures: George Peppard and Mr. T court danger in The A-Team: Season Two, David Hasselhoff drives his super car in Knight Rider: Season Two and Tom Selleck goes Hawaiian in Magnum P.I.: The Complete Second Season. The triple-disc sets are tagged at $49.98 each.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment celebrates all things Bunker with All in the Family: The Complete Fourth Season, showcasing Carroll O’Connor as the ever-irascible Archie, while Sherman Hemsley plays an equally intractable patriarch in the Bunker spin-off series The Jeffersons: The Complete Third Season (three-disc, $29.95).

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment introduces The Bob Newhart Show: The Complete First Season in a three-disc, 24-episode set ($29.98), while Anchor Bay Entertainment harks back to the ‘80s via Sledge Hammer!: The Complete Second Season (four-disc, $39.98).

Warner Home Video launches extras-enhanced double-disc editions of a pair of Cartoon Network animated cult series, Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, Volume 1 and Space Ghost Coast to Coast, Volume 3 ($29.98 each).

HBO Video heads out on the highway with the 1983 anthology series The Hitchhiker: Volume II (two-disc, $34.98), accompanied by select audio commentaries.

The ‘A’ list

Recent theatrical releases reaching vidstores this week include writer-director Terry George’s often wrenching fact-based drama Hotel Rwanda ($26.98), starring Don Cheadle, Sophie Okonedo and Nick Nolte. MGM Home Entertainment’s bonus-packed edition arrives with audio commentaries, documentaries and more.

Mr. Cheadle joins an all-star cast that includes George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts in Steven Soderbergh’s blockbuster caper sequel Ocean’s Twelve ($27.95), in an edition oddly bereft of extras.

Elsewhere, a typically intense Ben Kingsley turns the tables on serial killers in E. Elias (“Shadow of the Vampire”) Merhige’s Suspect Zero ($29.99), new from Paramount Home Entertainment, while Sony Pictures presents both the Pedro Almovodar import Bad Education (available in separate R and NC-17 editions) and the controversial indie The Woodsman ($26.96 each), starring Kevin Bacon as a convicted pedophile searching for redemption.

Collectors’ corner

Buena Vista Home Entertainment unlocks its vaults to resurrect a quartet of backdate family films: Roddy McDowall in the 1967 Wild West spoof The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin, Kurt Russell in 1971’s television satire The Barefoot Executive, Dick Van Dyke in the naval comedy Lt. Robin Crusoe, USN, and Dean Jones in 1971’s Million Dollar Duck ($19.99 each).

Anchor Bay Entertainment offers a treat for farce fans with its five-disc Ealing Comedy Collection ($89.95), packaging a quintet of vintage British comedy classics: The Maggie, A Run for Your Money, Titfield Thunderbolt, Whiskey Galore! and Passport to Pimlico.

MGM Home Entertainment unearths a brace of lavish 1960s features: Julie Andrews, Max von Sydow and Richard Harris in George Roy Hill’s 1966 adaptation of James Michener’s Hawaii and Brigitte Bardot and Jeanne Moreau in Louis Malle’s 1965 Mexico-set Western Viva Maria! ($14.95 each).

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Enjoy your column every week in The Washington Times. Question: There must a good reason that “The Wonder Years” hasn’t been released on DVD. Your thoughts, please.

Kenny Dobin, via e-mail

That popular series (1988-1993) has been represented so far only by the out-of-print 1998 digital highlight reel “Best of The Wonder Years,” but we wouldn’t be surprised to see the show surface on DVD in the relatively near future.

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

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