- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Rising Thai martial-arts star Tony Jaa continues to reinvigorate the genre with his latest intensely kinetic showcase The Protector, new from Dragon Dynasty/Genius Products Inc. (two-disc, $29.95). It’s our …

DVD pick of the week

The double-disc set contains both the truncated U.S. theatrical and extended international versions of the film, with the latter emerging as the far superior cut. As in his 2005 debut vehicle “Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior,” Mr. Jaa plays a country lad who journeys into the wilds of the big, bad city (Sydney, Australia, replacing the earlier film’s Bangkok) on a dangerous mission, in this case to locate and reclaim a pair of purloined pachyderms.

While his plot serves as a convenient frame for the multiple fight set pieces, director Prachya Pinkaew doesn’t stint on the details and flavor, filling the screen with colorful villains, including a transsexual Chinese crime czar/czarina (Jin Xing) and an oversized brawler (Nathan B. Jones), as well as fascinating glimpses into Sydney’s diverse, flourishing Asian communities.

Mr. Jaa handles the combat scenes (one of which — a battle royal in a casino lensed in a single, nearly five-minute tracking shot — ranks among the greatest ever captured on celluloid) with oft-breathless athletic aplomb but wisely shares the dramatic load with accomplished thesp Phetthai Wongkhamlao, cast here as an earthy Thai emigre cop on Sydney’s largely Caucasian force.

The severely chopped U.S. edition is worth a look for comparison’s sake; more compelling extras include behind-the-scenes featurettes and Tony Jaa martial-arts demonstrations, among other bonus materials. The disc comes equipped with optional subtitles, though much of the film’s dialogue is spoken in English. “The Protector” is a must for martial-arts buffs who think they’ve seen it all.

Collectors’ corner

Warner Home Video celebrates Valentine’s Day with a quintet of romantic classics. Judy Garland and Robert Walker literally race against time in The Clock (1945), while Jane Wyman and Van Johnson share stolen moments in the similarly themed Miracle in the Rain (1955), Troy Donahue and Sandra Dee discover young love at A Summer Place (1959), a neurotic George Segal pursues elusive ex Susan Anspach in Blume in Love (1973), and Amy Irving encounters two potential suitors in Crossing Delancey (1988). The discs are tagged at $19.97 each.

The same label adds another five vintage titles, voted in by film fans on Amazon.com, to its “Decision 2006” roster — The Arrangement (1960), Band of Angels (1957), the wild and crazy kung-fu variation Gymkata (1985), Looker (1981) and Madame Curie (1943).

Paramount Home Entertainment jump-starts Oscar season with its gala Best Picture Academy Award Winners Collection (seven-disc, $89.98), assembling seven Oscar-winning films: The Godfather (1972), Terms of Endearment (1983), Forrest Gump (1994), Braveheart (1995), Titanic (1997), American Beauty (1999) and Gladiator (2000).

20th Century Fox focuses on Valentine’s Day with Baz Lurhmann’s 1997 Romeo + Juliet: Musical Edition ($19.98), offering new featurettes, an insider’s look at the film’s complex soundtrack, three filmmakers’ audio commentaries and more.

The ‘A’ list

In a busy week for recent theatrical releases debuting on DVD, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment contributes three titles: the all-star adaptation Running With Scissors ($26.96), the scare sequel The Grudge 2 ($28.95) and the character-driven comedy The Boynton Beach Club ($26.96).

20th Century Fox chips in a pair, the family-friendly adventure Flicka ($29.98), starring Alison Lohman and Tim McGraw, and the Manhattan-set romantic comedy Trust the Man ($27.98), with Billy Crudup, David Duchovny, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Julianne Moore.

DreamWorks Home Entertainment plants Clint Eastwood’s World War II epic Flags of Our Fathers ($29.99), while Universal Studios unveils Adrien Brody, Diane Lane and Ben Affleck in Hollywoodland ($29.98), Allen Coulter’s intriguing investigation of “Superman” actor George Reeves’ mysterious death; extras include a director’s commentary, featurettes and deleted scenes.

Tele-video

Comedies dominate the current TV-on-DVD slate. Jamie Lee Curtis and Richard Lewis headline in Anything But Love: Season 1 (20th Century Fox, three-disc, $39.98), while Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt star in Mad About You: The Complete Third Season (Sony Pictures, three-disc, $39.95) and Alyssa Milano, Holly Marie Combs and Rose McGowan work their witty magic in the seriocomic supernatural series Charmed: The Complete Seventh Season (six-disc, $54.99).

Elsewhere, David Hasselhoff and his curvaceous crew seek to keep the coastline safe in Baywatch: Season 3 (First Look Home Entertainment, five-disc, $29.99), while Felicity Kendal and Pam Ferris play amateur sleuths in the British mystery show Rosemary & Thyme: Series 3 (Acorn Media, three-disc, $49.99).

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Looking for Roger Corman’s Carnosaur movies from the ‘90s.

Edward Ray, via e-mail

New and pre-viewed DVDs of all three of those New Concorde Entertainment dinosaur fright films are currently available via Amazon.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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