- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 5, 2005

Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead, the funniest zombie comedy to surface since 1985’s “The Return of the Living Dead,” shambles into area vid stores in a bonus-packed edition via Universal Studios Home Entertainment ($29.98). It’s our …

DVD pick of the week

Simon Pegg assumes the title role as Shaun, a Brit ‘burb dweller determined to shed his slacker ways by improving his employment situation; setting things right with his disaffected squeeze, Liz (Kate Ashfield); and coming to grips with his absent-minded mom (Penelope Wilton) and grumpy stepdad, Philip (Bill Nighy).

Shaun’s plans are complicated by a sudden invasion of the living dead — neighbors among them — and simple survival soon becomes the order of the day. With his portly couch-potato pal Ed (Nick Frost), Shaun rounds up his loved ones in a bid to stay one step ahead of the slow-moving but seemingly unstoppable zombies.

Co-scripted by Mr. Wright Mr. Pegg, “Shaun” is just as amusing as a character-driven comedy as it is as a fright farce — a rarity for the genre. The screenwriters wisely play the zombie threat straight, instead siphoning laughs from their assembled eccentrics’ understandably bumbling reactions to the bloody situation.

Along the way, the filmmakers poke fun at screen zombie lore, from George Romero’s groundbreaking “Living Dead” trilogy to Danny Boyle’s “28 Days Later.”

The creative crew has an equally infectious time assembling the inventive extras, including Mr. Pegg’s jokey video diary, deleted scenes, outtakes, wacky TV appearances (with members of Coldplay guesting as zombie survivors), a lively cast and filmmakers’ audio commentary, and more.

You don’t have to be a hard-core “Living Dead”-head to enjoy this spirited romp.

The ‘A’ list

Comedies continue to dominate the new theatrical-to-DVD slate:

• DreamWorks Home Entertainment issues the Will Ferrell showcase Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy ($29.99), set in the 1970s, in an extended edition further bolstered by more than 15 minutes of deleted scenes, along with mockumentary featurettes, bloopers, outtakes and more.

• Warner Home Video sets its sights on the youth market with the stoner exercise Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, available in separate R-rated and “extreme unrated” versions ($27.95 each), complete with actor and filmmaker commentaries, featurettes, deleted scenes, and outtakes.

• Goodtimes Entertainment targets the family trade with the canine comedy sequel Benji: Off the Leash! ($19.95).

• 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment bows the comedy-drama Garden State ($29.98). Extras include audio commentary by actress Natalie Portman and actor-director Zach Braff, a behind-the-scenes featurette, 16 deleted scenes, and more.

• Sony Pictures Home Entertainment introduces the romantic romp Little Black Book ($26.95), starring Brittany Murphy, Holly Hunter, Ron Livingston and Kathy Bates.

• Sony likewise debuts the acclaimed surf documentary Riding Giants ($24.95) in a bonus-packed edition with filmmakers’ and surfers’ commentaries, deleted scenes, a making-of featurette, and more.

• Prolific French auteur Patrice Leconte, late of the excellent “Man on the Train,” scores again with his seriocomic Intimate Strangers (Paramount Home Entertainment, $29.99).


Speaking of England, as we were at the top, A&E; Home Video has two new treats for couchside Anglophiles: the acerbic legal satire Rumpole of the Bailey: The Complete Seasons One and Two and The Complete Seasons Three and Four (four-disc, $69.95 each), starring Leo McKern, plus the 1979 sci-fi series Sapphire and Steel (six-disc, $99.95), with Joanna Lumley and David McCallum as alien investigators assigned to Earth.

Universal Studios Home Entertainment goes the glitzy route with the three-disc Las Vegas: Uncut and Uncensored: Season One ($59.98), featuring tough guy James Caan plus guest stars including Dennis Hopper and Paris Hilton, accompanied by behind-the-scenes featurettes.

Universal also launches the retooled double-disc Battlestar Galactica: The 2003 Miniseries ($27.98).

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment mines a spooky vein with the extras-enriched Lance Henriksen cult show Millennium: The Complete Second Season (six-disc, $59.98).

Columbia-TriStar Home Entertainment resurrects both the vampire series Forever Knight: The Trilogy: Part Two in a lavish six-disc set ($59.95) with 26 episodes, commentaries and featurettes, and Tour of Duty: The Complete Second Season, set in Vietnam (four-disc, $49.95).

Collectors’ corner

For art-house fans, Water Bearer Films assembles a fresh trio of maverick British filmmaker Mike Leigh’s vintage features — Four Days in July, Home Sweet Home and Kiss of Death — in its triple-disc Mike Leigh Collection Volume Three ($79.95).

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: A stage performance of Richard Burton’s famous “rehearsal clothes” Hamlet was released in theaters. Is it available in any format, anywhere?

Herb Borkland, via e-mail

Image Entertainment released that 1964 performance in 1999 ($29.99), available from Amazon.com and other Web sites.

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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