- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Producer-director Mel Gibson, co-writer Farhad Safinia and veteran cinematographer Dean Semler combine their talents to craft a resonant action epic with Apocalypto, new this week from Touchstone Home Entertainment ($29.99). It’s our …

DVD pick of the week

After an intimate, even comedic opening sequence, sort of a “Quest for Fire” meets “Animal House,” a small tribe in 16th-century Mexico is overtaken by catastrophe when rival warriors raid their jungle village and enslave captives slated to serve as human sacrifices at the heart of a vast Mayan city.

The film focuses on young Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood), who embarks on a bold escape to reunite with his endangered pregnant wife (Dalia Hernandez) and child. Though the resultant extended chase sequence owes a major debt to Cornel Wilde’s 1966 Africa-set adventure “The Naked Prey,” “Apocalypto” stands tall on the strength of its own multiple merits.

Mr. Gibson and collaborators succeed in sketching vivid, complex, flawlessly enacted characters with a minimum of (subtitled) dialogue and also create scenes of exotic spectacle and heart-stopping suspense, all within the context of a desperate civilization flirting with its own self-destruction.

A feature-length audio commentary by Mr. Gibson and Mr. Safinia, the fascinating if too brief featurette “Becoming Mayan: Creating ‘Apocalypto’ ” and a deleted scene constitute the extras.

As a stirring period spectacle with a serious subtext, “Apocalypto” can take its rightful place beside classics such as Michael Mann’s 1992 “The Last of the Mohicans” and Roland Joffe’s 1986 “The Mission.”

Tele-video

In fresh TV-on-DVD developments, Warner Home Video wraps The O.C.: The Complete Fourth Season (five-disc, $59.98) and revisits the sweeping 1977 miniseries Roots (four-disc, $59.98), with both sets accompanied by audio commentaries, featurettes, deleted scenes and more.

On the action front, Jan-Michael Vincent flies high in Universal Studios Home Entertainment’s Airwolf: Season 3 (five-disc, $39.98), while the titular gunslingers ride anew in MGM Home Entertainment’s The Magnificent Seven: Season Two (three-disc, $29.98).

In the comedy arena, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment collects all 13 episodes of the critically acclaimed, prematurely canceled sitcom Kitchen Confidential: The Complete Series (two-disc, $29.98), while Buena Vista Home Entertainment celebrates Scrubs: The Complete Fifth Season (three-disc, $39.99), the latter equipped with audio commentaries, deleted scenes and more.

From across the pond, BBC Video emphasizes farce with Clatterford: Season 1 (two-disc, $29.98), starring funny femmes Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley and Dawn French, along with the offbeat sketch series Little Britain Live ($24.98) and the documentary mix of travel and mirth Michael Palin: Around the World in 80 Days (three-disc, $49.98). On a somewhat more earnest note, the label likewise proffers Monarch of the Glen Series Six (three-disc, $49.98).

Acorn Media contributes the British sleuth series The Last Detective: Series 3 (two-disc, $39.99), starring Peter Davison in four new installments, and the PBS comedy series The Red Green Show: 1998 Season (three-disc, $39.99).

Koch Vision debuts the eight-episode British documentary TV series The Tower (two-disc, $29.98), examining the history and legend of the Tower of London.

The ‘A’ list

Thrillers top the week’s theatrical-to-DVD roster, with Genius Entertainment contributing a pair, the voyeuristic indie suspense film Alone With Her, starring Colin Hanks, and the Billy Zane zombie comedy The Mad ($19.95 each), both with featurettes and deleted scenes..

Anchor Bay Entertainment issues the surreal British mystery Dark Corners ($26.98), showcasing Thora Birch in dual roles, while Magnolia Home Entertainment debuts Hal Hartley’s sequel to his 1998 black comedy “Henry Fool,” Parker Posey in (and as) Fay Grim ($29.98), co-starring Jeff Goldblum and arriving with featurettes and deleted scenes.

Warner Home Video returns to World War II with double-disc editions of Clint Eastwood’s acclaimed Letters From Iwo Jima ($34.99) and its predecessor, Flags of Our Fathers ($36.99), both armed with copious bonus material, including multiple featurettes, along with Steven Soderbergh’s black-and-white drama The Good German ($27.98), starring George Clooney, Cate Blanchett and Toby Maguire.

Touchstone Home Entertainment goes the dramatic route with the Peter O’Toole vehicle Venus ($29.99), casting the veteran thesp as an aging actor who finds renewal with young Jodie Whitaker; extras include a filmmakers’ commentary, featurette and deleted scenes.

Collectors’ corner

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment adds three extras-enhanced vintage song-and-dance entries ($19.98 each) to its “Marquee Musicals” line, bowing 1960’s Can-Can, with Frank Sinatra and Shirley MacLaine; 1951’s On the Riviera, starring Danny Kaye and Gene Tierney; and 1936’s Pigskin Parade, featuring Judy Garland and Betty Grable.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Has the original “The Fugitive” TV series with David Janssen ever been released on DVD?

J.M. Kantor, via e-mail

Not yet, but Paramount Home Entertainment plans a late summer introduction for The Fugitive: Season One, Volume 1.

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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