Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Just when you thought filmmakers might have run out of fresh serial-killer twists, Spanish auteur Jaime Rosales hatches a new one in his haunting Las Dias del Horas (“The Hours of the Day”), out this week via Ventura Distribution ($19.95, venturadistribution.com). It’s our…

DVD pick of the week

Director Rosales follows alienated young Abel (a brilliantly low-key Alex Brendemuhl) on his mundane daily rounds — breakfast with his caring widowed mom (Maria Antonia Martinez), another dull day at his lightly patronized clothing store, where he blandly dispenses useless advice to his put-upon employee Trini (Pape Monsoriu), and a date with his obviously (and understandably) disaffected squeeze Tere (Agate Roca). Mr. Rosales patiently fills in Abel’s largely blank portrait until a crime of opportunity arises and our antihero viciously slays a female taxi driver, with no apparent motive beyond a vague sense of frustration.



Like Mark Romanek’s 2002 against-type Robin Williams showcase “One Hour Photo” (though with more subtlety), “Las Horas del Dias” could stand as an unblinking character study with its few violent scenes excised: Even without the literal slayings, the empathy-challenged Abel is a relentless soul-killer, a deadly dampening influence on all those around him.

Since the film starts and ends in medias res, it’s difficult to tell whether we’re witnessing Abel during his first breakdown or if he’s been carrying on this lifestyle for some time. Mr. Rosales maintains the mystery and informs his film with some of the most naturalistic yet thematically reverberant dialogue we’ve heard in many a movie moon while deftly employing visual symbolism — chiefly clocks, in keeping with the title — that never obstructs his story’s circular flow.

While Ventura’s English-subtitled disc arrives sans extras, the film itself more than justifies its rental or purchase price.

Tele-video

The invasion of the teleseries continues apace this week when 20th Century Fox introduces the cult sitcom Arrested Development: Season One ($39.98) in a three-disc edition that incorporates all 22 premiere season episodes, select audio commentaries, featurettes, deleted/extended scenes and much more.

Paramount Home Entertainment puts out the Ashton Kutcher-hosted MTV Punk’d ($26.99), sort of a “Candid Camera” for the Gen-Y set, in a double-disc set bolstered with bonuses ranging from audio commentaries and featurettes to previously unseen footage.

In the fantasy arena, MGM Home Entertainment takes off with the space opera Stargate SG1: Complete 7th Season ($69.95) in a five-disc set packed with bonus featurettes and more, while Anchor Bay Entertainment continues the sword-slinging adventures of Lucy Lawless in the extras-enriched 10-disc set Xena: Warrior Princess — Season Five ($79.98).

Collectors’ corner

MGM Home Entertainment spans several genres and decades with a quintet of highly collectible titles tagged at $14.95 each:

• Romance rules in David O. Selznick’s Made For Each Other (1939), matching James Stewart with Carole Lombard.

• Ditto for Mr. Selznick’s Intermezzo (1946), starring Ingrid Bergman and Leslie Howard.

• Richard Burton assumes the title role in Robert Rossen’s rousing 1956 epic Alexander the Great, co-starring Fredric March and Claire Bloom.

• Jane Fonda leads an ace ensemble cast in a grueling dance marathon in Sydney Pollack’s They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? from 1969.

• Dustin Hoffman goes the reluctant macho route in Sam Peckinpah’s still-powerful 1971 Straw Dogs.

Columbia/TriStar Home Entertainment heads out on the highway looking for adventure with its Easy Rider: 35th Anniversary Edition ($29.95), equipped with an audio commentary by actor-director Dennis Hopper, a “making-of” featurette, an 80-page book and a bonus soundtrack CD.

Musical memories

Warner Home Video looks to digitally dance its way into the hearts of millions with its gala four-disc That’s Entertainment: The Complete Collection ($49.92). The set offers three expertly assembled vintage musical compilation features: That’s Entertainment!, That’s Entertainment, Part 2 and That’s Entertainment! III — showcasing stars from Judy Garland to Fred Astaire, along with That’s Entertainment: Treasures from the Vault, promising five-plus hours of extras.

The ‘A’ list

In family-friendly fare, Hilary Duff stars in the updated fairy tale A Cinderella Story (Warner Home Video, $27.95), complete with cast commentary, additional scenes and other extras, while Bill Murray lends his vocal talents to the feline farce Garfield: The Movie (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, $29.98).

In an edgier vein, MGM Home Entertainment unveils the gritty British crime comedy Intermission ($26.98), headlining Colin Farrell.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: We enjoy your weekly column. We watched Show Boat, starring Irene Dunne and Paul Robeson. Is that version available either in VHS or DVD format?

The Olsens, via e-mail

While the 1951 version is out in both formats, James Whale’s 1936 original, with Miss Dunne and Mr. Robeson, 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: phanmedia@aol.com. Check out our Web site at www.videoscopemag.com.

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