- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Writer-director Gary Ross grants lavish old-school treatment to a classic underdog (or underhorse) story in the rousing fact-based drama Seabiscuit, new from Dreamworks Pictures/Universal ($26.98 DVD, $22.98 VHS). It’s our…

Video pick of the week

In Mr. Ross’ adaptation of Laura Hillenbrand’s best seller, a triumvirate of unlikely characters shepherds the long-shot eponymous equine to eventual track stardom: an owner (Jeff Bridges) seeking to overcome personal tragedy, an unorthodox trainer (Chris Cooper), and an oversized, essentially one-eyed jockey (Tobey Maguire). Mr. Ross wisely takes his time in building up their backstories and relationships as the film follows a traditional story arc leading to Seabiscuit’s much-celebrated ultimate showdown with heavily favored reigning racehorse War Admiral.

The three leads prove more than reliable, with Mr. Cooper, fresh from memorable turns in “American Beauty” and “Adaptation,” a special standout as laconic trainer Tom Smith, while William H. Macy lends additional color as radio track tout Tick Tock McLaughlin. Randy Newman contributes an appropriately lush (if occasionally overly manipulative) score, and the period designs rank among the best seen onscreen since last year’s “Road to Perdition,” similarly set in the 1930s.

Universal’s widescreen edition gallops in with a wealth of welcome extras, including audio commentary with Mr. Ross and fellow filmmaker Steven Soderbergh, the documentaries “Seabiscuit: Racing Through History” and “Bringing the Legend to Life: The Making of Seabiscuit,” Jeff Bridges’ on-the-set photographs, and more. (For hard-core buffs, Universal also has a double-disc Special Edition, tagged at $49.98.) When it comes to holiday season home-viewing, “Seabiscuit” rates as a sure thing.

The ‘A’ list

In other theatrical-to-digital developments, the scare sequel Jeepers Creepers 2 (MGM Home Entertainment, $26.98) flies into area vidstores this week, in a special edition that incorporates audio commentaries, a behind-the-scenes documentary, five featurettes, storyboard scene comparisons and more.

In a lighter vein, Columbia/TriStar Home Entertainment debuts the romantic comedy “I Captured the Castle” ($24.95), set in Britain and starring Henry Thomas and Romola Garai, along with the action-packed The Medallion ($26.95), with Jackie Chan as a Hong Kong detective with newly acquired magic powers.

Rob Reiner’s fast-vanishing romantic comedy Alex & Emma, with Kate Hudson and Luke Wilson, seeks to score a second life via Warner Home Video’s new special edition DVD ($27.98), featuring audio commentary by actor Wilson and director Reiner, along with other bonus material. All of the above are also available on VHS.


Next week, A&E; Home Video debuts two very different British espionage series. Danger Man: The Complete First Season ($99.95 six-DVD set) contains all 39 debut-season episodes of the popular spy show, aired stateside as “Secret Agent Man,” starring Patrick McGoohan as no-nonsense agent John Drake.

“Supermarionation” ace Gerry Anderson dusts off his offbeat 1970 series The Secret Service, a tricky live action/puppet combo about a priest-inventor-secret agent voiced by British comic Stanley Unwin. The double-disc set ($39.95) comes complete with select audio commentary and other bonus features.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment uncages Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete Fifth Season. The six-DVD set ($59.98) includes all 22 Season Five episodes, seven featurettes, outtakes, select commentary, DVD-ROM content and much more.

And on the subject of female empowerment, WGBH Boston Video releases the “Masterpiece Theatre” production Warrior Queen ($24.95), starring Alex Kingston as Boudica, a queen of the Britons who refused to bend to Roman Emperor Nero’s might or will.

Video verite

Next week, Docurama relives frightening events of the 1940s via a brace of new documentary DVDs ($24.95 each). 1999’s My Knees Were Jumping: Remembering the Kindertransports, narrated by Joanne Woodward, recounts how some 10,000 Jewish children journeyed by rail from Hitler’s strongholds to the safe haven of London, while Robert Stone’s Bikini Island follows up on the disastrous after-effects of American atomic bomb tests conducted in the South Pacific in 1946.

Noir gang

The dedicated archivists at VCI Entertainment (vcientertainment.com) supply a holiday treat for noir fans with a special edition of the offbeat 1949 psycho thriller Blonde Ice, showcasing Leslie Brooks as a frosty femme fatale, plus the mystery double feature The Scar (1948), starring Paul Henreid, and the 1953 London-set suspenser The Limping Man, with Lloyd Bridges. The discs are tagged at $14.99 each.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Is the movie “The Four Poster,” starring Rex Harrison, out on DVD or VHS yet?

Harry Burke, via e-mail

That 1952 classic, with Rex Harrison and Lilli Palmer as a married couple, has yet to join the homevideo ranks.

Send your video comments and queries to Phantom of the Movies, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002 or e-mail us at: [email protected] Check out our Web site at www.videoscopemag.com.

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