- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Essentially a violently redemptive samurai tale transplanted to modern-day Mexico, Tony Scott’s Man on Fire, new this week from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment ($29.98), shapes up as a satisfying blend of textured drama and hard-edged action. It’s our…

DVD pick of the week

A typically charismatic Denzel Washington takes charge as Creasy, a washed-up, guilt-plagued, hard-drinking ex-government operative whose impulsive visit to former colleague Rayburn (Christopher Walken) leads to a bodyguard job.

Creasy’s young charge, Pita Ramos (Dakota Fanning in an appealing performance), immediately sets about trying to thaw her emotionally frozen protector. Director Scott and screenwriter Brian Helgeland wisely take the time to build their lead characters’ budding relationship, one that eventually draws Creasy out of his shell.

Shells of another sort soon enter the picture when Pita is kidnapped by a brutal organized gang and our hero goes gunning for the perps, whose operation may extend to the upper echelons of local law enforcement. Mr. Washington lends admirable credibility to his radical character changes as he goes from burnout to father figure to killing machine.

Director Scott also benefits from a sharp supporting cast, notably Radha Mitchell as Pita’s trophy mom, Italian thesp Giancarlo Giannini as a federal investigator, and Mickey Rourke as the Ramoses’ blunt attorney. Excellent location lensing by cinematographer Paul Cameron adds considerable visual flavor.

Extras include an informative insider’s audio commentary by the articulate Mr. Scott (who reveals he originally had planned to make the film in Italy about 22 years earlier), a second track with Mr. Helgeland, Miss Fanning and producer Lucas Foster, along with a featurette and other bonus material.

Tele-video

• In cathode crime-stopper news, Universal Studios Home Video offers a troika of law enforcement series in extras-enriched four-disc sets: Law & Order: The Fourteenth Year, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit — The Fifth Year and Law & Order: Criminal Intent — The Third Year ($59.98 each).

• Sitcoms hold sway in two new three-disc sets from Columbia/TriStar Home Entertainment: Diff’rent Strokes: The Complete First Season and Sanford and Son: The Fifth Season ($29.98 each).

• Lions Gate Home Entertainment opts for more contemporary comedy with the four-disc Will & Grace: Season 3 ($44.98), as does HBO Video with Everybody Loves Raymond: The Complete First Season ($44.98), arriving in a five-disc set with audio commentaries, featurettes and more.

• The action takes a more dramatic turn in HBO’s double-disc presentation of playwright Tony Kushner’s Angels in America ($39.98) and Warner Home Video’s six-disc Everwood: The Complete First Season ($59.98). The latter includes select commentaries, a featurette, unaired scenes and more.

• In the sci-fi arena, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment launches Lost in Space: Season Two Volume One ($39.98) in a four-disc set containing 16 digitally remastered color episodes charting the space family Robinson’s ongoing adventures.

Collectors’ corner

• Hitchcock buffs have reason to rejoice with Warner Home Video’s 10-disc The Alfred Hitchcock Collection ($99.92), assembling eight of the celluloid suspense maestro’s hits: Dial M for Murder, Foreign Correspondent, I Confess, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Stage Fright, Strangers on a Train, Suspicion and The Wrong Man. The collection is augmented by documentaries, newsreels, theatrical trailers and more.

• For animal lovers, the same label has released the vintage Technicolor canine adventures Lassie Come Home (1943), Son of Lassie (1945) and The Courage of Lassie (1946), along with the 1960s dolphin duo Flipper and Flipper’s New Adventure. The discs are tagged at $14.97 each.

• MGM Home Entertainment presents Stanley Kramer’s 1961 all-star epic Judgment at Nuremberg ($14.95), accompanied by three featurettes, a photo gallery and original trailer.

The ‘A’ list

This week, Buena Vista Home Entertainment debuts the animated family Western Home on the Range ($29.99), featuring the vocal talents of Randy Quaid, Jennifer Tilly and Judi Dench, in a special edition equipped with deleted scenes, music videos, games and a featurette.

Two recent indies (at $24.96 each) also join the digital ranks via Columbia/TriStar Home Entertainment: Baadasssss!, actor-director Mario Van Peebles’ docudrama tribute to his guerrilla filmmaker dad Melvin, and David Mackenzie’s thriller Young Adam, starring Ewan McGregor and Tilda Swinton.

Video verite

Spike Lee goes the verite route with his feature-length portrait Jim Brown: All American (HBO Video, $26.98), complete with a filmmaker commentary and additional documentary footage.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: I believe the real-life Siamese twins the Hilton sisters, who are in “Freaks,” starred in their own movie but I can’t locate the name or if it’s on video.

D. Franklin, via e-mail

Violet and Daisy Hilton’s 1951 screen vehicle, Chained For Life, is available on disc ($6.99) from Alpha Video (www.oldies.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: [email protected] Check out our Web site at www.videoscopemag.com.

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