- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 16, 2007

One of 2006’s most deservedly acclaimed films, Pan’s Labyrinth, makes its digital debut this week in a gala double-disc edition ($34.99) from New Line Home Entertainment. It’s our …

DVD pick of the week Brimming with wonder, harsh realism and grim whimsy, writer-director Guillermo del Toro’s dark fantasy emerges as an unforgettable viewing experience. Our story follows young Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), who reluctantly accompanies her sickly, pregnant mother Carmen (Ariadna Gil) to the rural military quarters of her new stepfather Vidal (Sergi Lopez), a sadistic army captain waging a violent campaign against anti-Franco forces in 1944 Spain.

A fan of fairy tales that help her cope with her severe surroundings, Ofelia soon finds herself entering a magical subterranean realm ruled by Pan (Doug Jones), an ancient figure who seeks to enlist her aid in a fight against the evil raging above.

As he did with his earlier 1930s fable set in Spain, “The Devil’s Backbone,” Mr. del Toro succeeds in creating a singular mood piece that seamlessly blends the supernatural with reality, though here he accomplishes that feat on a far grander scale. Unlike many Hollywood films, however, the special effects never feel forced or gratuitous, working to serve the plot rather than call attention to themselves.

New Line’s Platinum Series release offers a comprehensive look at the evolution of said effects, along with other featurettes, audio commentary by Mr. del Toro, a director’s notebook, a “Charlie Rose Show” interview and much, much more.

Those who missed “Pan’s Labyrinth” during its big-screen run are in for a revelation, while fans will want to immerse themselves in the bounteous bonus material.

Tele-video

Comedies dominate the week’s TV-on-DVD slate. 20th Century Fox issues the animated series American Dad Vol. 2 (three-disc, $39.98) and a gala edition of MASH: Goodbye, Farewell and Amen (three-disc, $29.98), augmenting that final series episode with more than six hours of bonus material, from documentaries to cast interviews.

Universal Studios focuses on Craig T. Nelson as a football-fixated Coach: The Second Season (two-disc, $26.98) and James Garner as reluctant sleuth Jim Rockford in The Rockford Files: Season Four (five-disc, $39.98).

Paramount Home Entertainment extends the digital afterlife of a pair of popular sitcoms with Frasier: The Ninth Season and Wings: The Fourth Season (four-disc, $42.99 each).

Elsewhere, Tim Allen exercises his comedic chops in Home Improvement: The Complete Sixth Season (Buena Vista, three-disc, $24.99), HBO Video showcases Martin Lawrence in Martin: The Complete Second Season (four-disc, $29.98), and Warner Home Video casts Michael Rapaport as a harried dad in the domestic romp The War at Home: The Complete First Season (three-disc, $39.98).

The last-mentioned label goes the serious route with the medical drama ER: The Complete Seventh Season (six-disc, $49.98), starring Anthony Edwards, Maura Tierney and Noah Wylie.

Country music occupies center stage in Time Life’s The Hee Haw Collection ($14.95) and the double-disc Best of Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters Show ($24.95), the latter featuring more than 40 musical performances, while gospel serves as the focus of the BET Entertainment compilation Celebration of Gospel (Paramount, $19.99).

The play’s the thing in Acorn Media’s cathode capture of the Broadway musical Camelot ($29.95), starring Richard Harris, and The Best of the Tony Awards: The Plays ($19.95).

YA Entertainment imports a pair of popular English-subtitled Korean TV dramatic series, the 18-episode A Prince’s First Love (six-disc, $89.99) and the 20-episode Spring Waltz (seven-disc, $99.99).

The ‘A’ list

Surrealism reigns in a pair of recent theatrical titles joining the digital ranks this week. Live action and animation mix in Luc Besson’s family adventure Arthur and the Invisibles (Genius Products, $28.95), appearing with featurettes and music videos, while lovers Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz time-trip in Darren Aronofsky’s sci-fi romance The Fountain (Warner, $27.95).

Sony Pictures presents the underground dance drama Stomp the Yard ($28.95), complete with featurettes, filmmaker commentary, gag reel and more, while Genius Entertainment proffers the Spanish-language comedy Family Law ($19.95).

Collectors’ corner

Michael J. Fox stars in a quartet of farces in the Michael J. Fox Comedy Favorites Collection (three-disc, $29.98) — The Secret of My Success, The Hard Way, For Love or Money and Greedy — while Denzel Washington battles terrorists in a new extras-enhanced edition of Edward Zwick’s The Siege ($19.98).

Video verite

First Run Features issues two acclaimed Holocaust-themed documentaries, Bob Hercules and Cheri Pugh’s Forgiving Dr. Mengele and Rolf Bickel and Dietrich Wagner’s Verdict on Auschwitz in double-disc editions ($29.95 each).

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Is the first Superman movie, Superman and the Mole-Men, available on DVD?

Ken Reynolds, via e-mail

That 1951 George Reeves feature is included as an extra on Superman: The Movie: 4-Disc Special Edition (Warner Home Video, $39.98).

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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