- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Sort of an airborne “The Narrow Margin” (though it’s not quite in that impeccable 1952 noir’s lofty league), Red Eye, new from DreamWorks Home Entertainment ($26.99), lands in area vidstores as a solid modern B movie that benefits from a beefed-up budget, and it’s our …

DVD pick of the week

In the capable hands of old pro thriller maven Wes Craven and veteran TV scripter Carl Ellsworth, “Red Eye” relies more on precision craft than cheap scares to deliver the suspense cargo.

Rachel McAdams shines as Lisa Reisert, a luxury hotel manager en route to her Miami home base who has a seemingly chance airport encounter with charming, handsome fellow passenger Jackson Rippner (Cillian Murphy, ably jettisoning his natural Irish brogue in favor of a flawless Yank accent). Once onboard, Lisa learns the hard way that Jackson harbors a far more sinister purpose than striking up a potential mile-high romance.

Filmmakers Craven and Ellsworth employ their claustrophobic setting to intense effect in what amounts to an essentially two-character cat-and-mouse game between the determined Jackson and his pressured prey, with the life of Lisa’s father (Brian Cox) hanging in the balance. Aided by Mr. Ellsworth’s sharp, naturalistic dialogue, Miss McAdams and Mr. Murphy prove more than up to the task of carrying the dramatic load virtually by their lonesome.

Only in its final act back on terra firma does “Red Eye” revert to somewhat more predictable chase maneuvers, but even these fail to sabotage the film’s overall entertainment value.

Extras include an audio commentary by Mr. Craven, longtime producing partner Marianne Maddalena and editor Patrick Lussier; an informative behind-the-scenes featurette; a Wes Craven profile; a gag reel and an original theatrical trailer. Clocking in at a streamlined 85 minutes, “Red Eye” supplies a relentlessly tense ride.

Best of the West

Warner Home Video provides a veritable bonanza for sagebrush buffs with its bonus-packed six-disc Sam Peckinpah’s Legendary Westerns Collection ($59.98). The set assembles the maverick outdoor auteur’s brilliant 1962 Joel McCrea/Randolph Scott swan song Ride the High Country, along with the sweeping, ultra-violent 1969 epic The Wild Bunch, the 1970 Western comedy The Ballad of Cable Hogue, and 1973’s Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. Extras include commentaries by Peckinpah scholars, documentaries, featurettes, outtakes, trailer galleries and more.

Not to be outgunned, MGM Home Entertainment issues a double-disc The Magnificent Seven special edition ($24.96), presenting John Sturges’ iconic 1960 oater in a fresh high-def transfer armed with four new featurettes and audio commentary by film historian Christopher Frayling.

Black history breakouts

Warner Home Video gets a jump on Black History Month with a trio of backdate musicals with black casts, tagged at $19.98 each: 1943’s Cabin in the Sky, starring Lena Horne and Eddie “Rochester” Anderson (equipped with a new audio commentary and archival material), 1936’s The Green Pastures, likewise with Mr. Anderson and Rex Ingram, and the 1929 early talkie Hallelujah, showcasing Nina Mae McKinney.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment counters with 1943’s Stormy Weather, with Miss Horne and Bill Robinson; 1957’s Island in the Sun, starring James Mason and Dorothy Dandridge; Robert Townsend’s tuneful The Five Heartbeats: 15th Anniversary Special Edition ($19.98 each); and Robert Hooks as 1972’s Trouble Man ($14.98).

Tele-video

Paramount Home Entertainment tops the new TV-on-DVD slate, servicing Western fans with the three-disc Gunsmoke: 50th Anniversary Volume One and Volume Two collections ($35.99 each), both brimming with special features, and Richard Boone as upscale gunslinger Paladin in Have Gun — Will Travel: The Complete Third Season (seven-disc, $45.99), with all 39 Season Three episodes.

The same label radically switches gears with the stunt-driven Bam Margera reality TV series Viva La Bam: Complete Seasons 4 & 5 (three-disc, $39.99).

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment debuts the hospital-set series Strong Medicine: The Complete First Season (five-disc, $49.95), starring Janine Turner.

The ‘A’ list

Two recent big-screen thrillers reach vidstores this week: Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz headline in the John Le Carre adaptation The Constant Gardener (Universal Studios Home Entertainment, $29.98), while Jason Statham returns for more high-octane action in Transporter 2 (20th Century Fox, $29.99), both accompanied by copious extras.

Elsewhere, Terrence Howard plays a pimp turned rapper in Craig Brewer’s drama Hustle & Flow (Paramount, $29.95), complete with director’s commentary, featurettes, promotional spots and more.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: I am seeking to learn the availability of two movies: “Holocaust,” the TV mini-series, and “The Christmas List,” a made-for-TV movie.

Ron Hall, via e-mail

No luck with “The Christmas List,” but 1978’s Holocaust, thought long out of print, is still available (three-VHS set) on a mail-order rental basis via Video Library (vlibrary.com).

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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