- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Jackie Chan fans can celebrate a kung-fu Christmas with a fresh bonus-packed edition of one of that international icon’s best action/comedy showcases, 1985’s Police Story, new this week from Dragon Dynasty/Genius Products, Inc. ($24.95). It’s our …

DVD pick of the week

Jackie the actor plays a Hong Kong cop assigned to protect a major drug lord’s fetching government-witness mistress (Bridget Lin), a task that results in romantic complications with his jealous girlfriend (Maggie Cheung). Jackie the director keeps the plot careening along at a brisk clip, leavening the elaborately staged action set pieces with slapstick sight gags and satiric pokes at the local judicial system, a la Clint Eastwood’s backdate “Dirty Harry” vehicles, while exhibiting a fondness for fast-cutting and frequent frenzied zoom-lensing.

The first of Mr. Chan’s Hong Kong films to score a major impact stateside (it even screened at the prestigious New York Film Festival in 1987), “Police Story” helped pave the way for such equally entertaining capers as “Crime Story,” “Supercop” and “Rumble in the Bronx,” ultimately positioning Mr. Chan as an American action star (“Shanghai Noon,” “Rush Hour,” et al.).

Generous extras include audio commentary with “Rush Hour” director Brett Ratner and Asian film expert Bey Logan, a conversation with Mr. Chan, a retrospective with the latter’s famed stunt team, deleted scenes and more.

All told, “Police Story” represents an ideal way to literally kick off the holiday viewing season.

The ‘A’ list

Warner Home Video leads a busy week for recent theatrical releases making their digital bows with a pair of underperforming thrillers looking for a second life on DVD — M. Night Shyamalan’s Lady in the Water and Neil LaBute’s remake The Wicker Man ($28.98 each), both accompanied by copious extras.

The same label also debuts Richard Linklater’s experimental Philip K. Dick sci-fi adaptation A Scanner Darkly ($27.95), with Keanu Reeves.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment provides a pair of comedies, led by the surprise hit Little Miss Sunshine, with Greg Kinnear and Toni Collette heading a screen family that puts the “fun” in dysfunctional; audio commentaries, featurettes and other extras supplement the disc. Fox also unveils Uma Thurman as My Super Ex-Girlfriend ($29.98 each).

Buena Vista Home Entertainment introduces two family-friendly titles, the fact-based inspirational football drama Invincible, starring Mark Wahlberg and Greg Kinnear, and the teenage dance hit Step Up ($29.99 each), while Genius Products Inc. proffers the juvenile adventure Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker and the canine caper Chestnut ($19.95 each).

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents the Sean Penn showcase All the King’s Men ($28.95), along with the limited release titles The Celestine Prophecy and Dreamland ($24.96 each), while IFC Films unwraps the Charles Bukowski-based drama Factotum ($24.95), starring Matt Dillon.

Tele-video

In the TV-on-DVD comedy field, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment accords lavish treatment to The Simpsons: The Complete Ninth Season (four-disc, $49.98), which arrives with multiple commentaries, featurettes, deleted scenes and many more goodies.

In the live-action arena, look for Hogan’s Heroes: The Complete Fifth Season (Paramount, four-disc, $42.99) and Married With Children (Sony Pictures, three-disc, $39.95).

In a more earnest vein, Warner Home Video offers ER: The Complete Sixth Season (six-disc, $59.98), while HBO Video issues Spike Lee’s harrowing Katrina documentary When the Levees Broke in a three-disc edition ($29.98).

A&E Home Video tunes in to reality TV with the racing family saga Driving Force: The Complete Season One and the intimate celeb series Gene Simmons: Family Jewels: The Complete Season 1 (two-disc, $24.95 each).

Family fare

Walt Disney Home Entertainment honors tradition by hosting a number of family-friendly titles ideal for holiday viewing, leading with its elaborate, bonus-packed Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (four-disc, $42.99). The label also unleashes the live-action canine sports romp Air Buddies, the animated sequel The Fox and the Hound 2 ($29.99 each), along with four new nature-documentary True Life Adventures entries in its “Legacy Collection” line, all packaged in handsome tin cases ($32.99 each).

Collectors’ corner

Warner Home Video frees several vintage titles from its vaults this week, including Rod Steiger in the 1969 Ray Bradbury fable The Illustrated Man, George Peppard and Sophia Loren in the 1965 World War II thriller Operation Crossbow, the 1943 Judy Garland vehicle Presenting Lily Mars, the underrated 1970 Western satire There Was a Crooked Man, with Kirk Douglas, and James Garner in 1959’s Up Periscope ($19.97 each).

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Have the following movies ever been released on VHS or DVD: “More Than Friends” (TV movie), “The Locket” (Robert Mitchum)?

Teresa Hayes, via e-mail

1946’s “The Locket” enjoyed a brief laserdisc run but neither one has appeared in the more popular homevideo formats.

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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