- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 29, 2005

A warmhearted but not softheaded look at a fascinating phenomenon, Judy Irving’s documentary The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, new this week from Docurama ($26.95), makes for ideal holiday-season viewing. It’s our…

DVD pick of the week

The film focuses on middle-aged Mark Bittner, who, adrift after a stalled musical career, turns his attention to caring for a flock of fugitive pet parrots nesting near his San Francisco home.

In the course of “Wild Parrots,” we get to know not only the philosophical Mark, but the various members of his adopted flock, from the lonely male Connor, the only blue-feathered bird among the otherwise redheaded parrots, to the eccentric Mingus, who prefers indoor living over alfresco freedom and performs impromptu dances to Mark’s guitar stylings.

Filmmaker Irving captures the action at a pivotal point when Mark is evicted from his cottage, leaving his future with his beloved birds in doubt. Everyone from animal-rights activists to civic authorities eventually gets involved in Mark’s and his beaked charges’ plight.

“Wild Parrots” wisely avoids blatant sentimentality or anthropomorphism, allowing the birds to speak, or squawk, for themselves, adroitly capturing their highs (landing mates) and lows (trying to evade predatory hawks) while simultaneously recording Mark’s ongoing quest.

Extras include the bonus short “California Quail,” deleted scenes, flock updates, Mark’s home movies and more. For other noteworthy nature films, check out the recently released March of the Penguins (Warner Home Video, $28.98) and Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man (Lions Gate Home Entertainment, $27.98).

Tele-video

A&E; Home Video leads the way on the TV-on-DVD front with a quartet of releases, including two History Channel documentary sets The Battle History of the United States Military (five-disc, $59.95) and The Crusades: Crescent & The Cross (two-disc, $29.95), the latter incorporating the bonus program “In Search of the Knights Templar.”

Also on the A&E; agenda are the tele-series Criss Angel: Mindfreak: The Complete Season One (two-disc, $26.95), with all 15 first-season episodes plus bonus features, and The Mikado ($24.95), wherein former Monty Python regular Eric Idle meets Gilbert and Sullivan, with the action transplanted from 19th-century Japan to a 1920s English seaside resort.

Homegrown series arriving this week include the underwater sci-fi adventure Seaquest DSV: Season One (Universal Studios Home Entertainment, four-disc, $59.98), with Roy Scheider, and The Shield: Season 4 (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, four-disc, $59.98), starring Michael Chiklis and Glenn Close and including select audio commentaries, 42 deleted scenes and a behind-the-scenes documentary.

The ‘A’ list

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment sets the pace in a busy theatrical-to-digital week with three new titles the seagoing adventure Into the Blue, showcasing a bikini’d Jessica Alba; Wong Kar Wai’s romantic drama 2046, starring Tony Leung and Gong Li ($29.95 each); and the French thriller Empire of the Wolves ($24.96), with Jean Reno as an ex-detective embroiled in a grisly murder case.

Elsewhere, Jennifer Connelly encounters a persistent ghost in Walter Salles’ Japanese-horror adaptation Dark Water (Touchstone Home Entertainment, $29.99), available in separate original theatrical and unrated versions, both with featurettes and deleted scenes.

In a lighter vein, Universal Studios unleashes the nominal sequel American Pie Presents Band Camp ($26.98) in separate rated and unrated editions.

Collectors’ corner

Buena Vista Home Entertainment lavishes lots of TLC on its new double-disc Toy Story 2: Special Edition ($29.99), granting the 1999 Pixar sequel featuring the vocal talents of Tom Hanks and Tim Allen an audiovisual upgrade, along with deleted scenes, outtakes, interactive games and more.

Foxy, feisty Pam Grier proves she’s not playing around in MGM Home Entertainment’s Vibe Fox in a Box collection (four-disc, $29.95), taking care of business in three 1970s action classics Coffy, Foxy Brown and Sheba Baby. A bonus tribute disc completes the package.

Foreign fare

First Run Features adds another pair from East Germany’s once-thriving DEFA studio: the 1981 drama Your Unknown Brother ($24.95), about the anti-Nazi resistance movement, and 1963’s Naked Among Wolves ($29.95), dealing with concentration camp prisoners’ efforts to shield a young boy. The label also introduces the 2002 Iranian import Deserted Station ($29.95).

Empire Pictures debuts the acclaimed 2002 drama Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, set during China’s Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and ‘70s ($26.98).

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: I see so many old TV shows coming out on DVD, but when is “Kate & Allie” going to be out? It was one of my favorites.

Suzie, via e-mail

No official announcement as yet, but Universal Studios Home Entertainment’s upcoming Gimme a Break! Season One box includes a bonus “Kate & Allie” episode, so hopefully a full first-season set will follow soon.

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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