- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 25, 2006

One of the best American films of 2005, Jim Jarmusch’s offbeat road trip Broken Flowers, makes its digital debut via Universal Studios Home Entertainment ($29.98). It’s our…

DVD pick of the week

On the heels of his breakup with his latest flame Sherry (Julie Delpy), aging bachelor Don Johnston (Bill Murray) receives a mysterious letter intimating he may be the father of a now-19-year-old son.

Don’s neighbor Winston (Jeffrey Wright), an amateur detective addicted to cybersleuth games, convinces his reluctant friend to reconnect with four women from his past in a bid to uncover the truth.

It soon becomes clear that Don’s odyssey will be one of increasingly diminishing returns as he briefly hooks up with fun-loving Laura (Sharon Stone) and her aptly named daughter Lolita (Alexis Dziena), uptight married realtor Dora (Frances Conroy), unwelcoming “animal communicator” Carmen (Jessica Lange) and downright angry tough gal Penny (Tilda Swinton).

Writer-director Jarmusch is less interested in scoring large laughs than forging an alternately amusing and bittersweet meditation on middle age, with all its attendant unsolved mysteries, ironies and regrets.

The film’s eclectic but pitch-perfect score, anchored by some terrific African jazz pieces, helps create a dream-like mood as a virtually expressionless Murray conducts a distant voyeur’s tour of his own life.

That otherworldly quality extends into the extras as well, where behind-the-scenes footage is presented unvarnished, lending a truly verite sense to the experience.

Like many of Mr. Jarmusch’s earlier works, particularly “Mystery Train” and “Dead Man,” the images linger on long after the end credits roll.

Tele-video

In the TV-on-DVD arena, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment resurrects a pair of vintage series this week: the groundbreaking, multiple Emmy-winning 1980s cop show Hill Street Blues: The Complete First Season (three-disc, $39.98), containing all 17 Season One episodes along with select audio commentary and a retrospective featurette, and the 1960s sci-fi series The Time Tunnel: Volume One (four-disc, $39.98), assembling the show’s first 15 episodes, plus creator Irwin Allen’s behind-the-scenes home movies, still galleries and more.

Warner Home Video likewise dips into the ‘80s for Dallas: The Complete Fourth Season (four-disc, $39.98), offering all 23 Season Four episodes and a new reunion featurette.

From across the pond, BFS Entertainment imports the textured crime series Sergeant Cribb Set: Horizontal Witness (three-disc, $49.98), set in the Victorian era and starring William Simons as a determined policeman.

Universal Studios Home Entertainment issues two new The Best of Saturday Night Live compilations, Alec Baldwin and David Spade ($19.98 each), fleshed out with bonus commentaries and dress rehearsal footage.

Geneon Home Entertainment retrieves a tube time capsule with a brace of fresh The Judy Garland Show collections ($14.95 each), featuring guest stars ranging from Tony Bennett to Ethel Merman.

AMC TV/Delta Entertainment goes behind the Hollywood scenes with Sunday Morning Shootout: Best of Season One (two-disc, $12.99), wherein hosts Peter Bart and Peter Guber dish with Clint Eastwood, Mel Gibson and other A-list celebs.

The ‘A’ list

Sony leads the way on the new-release front, debuting a trio of recent theatrical titles: an unrated edition of Rupert Wainwright’s remake of John Carpenter’s 1980 seaside ghost chiller The Fog; Roman Polanski’s take on the Charles Dickens classic Oliver Twist ($28.95 each), starring Barney Clark as the eponymous orphan and Ben Kingsley as his street mentor Fagin; and Mike Mills’ coming-of-age indie Thumbsucker ($26.96), showcasing Lou Pucci and Tilda Swinton.

Elsewhere, Touchstone Home Entertainment’s high-flying Jodie Foster thriller Flightplan ($29.99) takes off in a luxury-class edition equipped with filmmaker commentary and featurettes, while Anchor Bay Entertainment issues the spoof My Big Fat Independent Movie ($19.98), and Demi Moore goes the supernatural route in Half Light (First Look Home Entertainment, $26.99).

Video verite

In new documentary developments, Brad Pitt narrates the three-disc RX for Survival: A Global Health Challenge (WGBH Boston Video, $39.95), an urgent study of rampant medical crises currently threatening developing nations.

Docurama salvages filmmaker Bill Jersey’s then-controversial 1966 civil-rights exploration A Time For Burning ($26.98), while PBS Home Video introduces two feature-length historical biographies, Benjamin Franklin and John & Abigail Adams ($24.99 each).

Drive-in daze

In a lighter vein, Lions Gate Home Entertainment conjures the thrills and chills of drive-in movies past with two cheese-enriched 1950s double bills: How to Make a Monster/Blood of Dracula and Earth vs. the Spider/War of the Colossal Beast ($14.98 each).

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Is A Town Like Alice available on VHS or DVD?

DGW, via e-mail

While officially out of print, a two-VHS set of that Australian miniseries is available 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.videoscope mag.com.

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