- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Got blues? Sony Pictures Home Entertainment does, in its new release of executive producer Martin Scorsese and director Antoine Fuqua’s dynamic all-star blues concert Lightning in a Bottle ($24.96). It’s our …

DVD pick of the week

The historic show, a tribute to that vibrant musical idiom from its African roots to its modern manifestations, unfolded Feb. 7, 2003 at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall. What could have turned into an overly reverent, even dry, affair instead grabs the blues by its roots — and rocks.

From octogenarian country bluesman David “Honeyboy” Edwards to young Macy Gray (performing an effectively offbeat cover of Big Mama Thornton’s “Hound Dog”), the energy rarely flags, thanks not only to the featured performers but a smoothly run production anchored by a terrific house band led by ace drummer Steve Jordan and guitarist Vernon Reid.

Further highlights include Buddy Guy’s slashing rendition of “Red House” (made famous by Jimi Hendrix), Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown’s soaring jazz-tinged guitar instrumental “Okie Dokie Stomp” and Robert Cray and Shemekia Copeland’s powerhouse interpretation of Bobby Bland’s “I Pity the Fool.”

A few awkward moments emerge during the behind-the-scenes footage, such as a cameo by the ubiquitous Bill Cosby, seen here scoring gratuitous face time during good-natured blues chanteuse Ruth Brown’s rehearsal, and an unnecessary hissy fit thrown by venerable folk singer Odetta. But most of the assembled artists emerge as gracious and enthusiastic, and even those off-kilter bits add to the film’s spontaneous spirit.

If there’s any fault to find here, it’s with the disc’s extras. While the director’s interview and five excellent bonus musical performances are appreciated, it would have been fun to see more musicians’ interviews and interactions — backstage outtakes that must surely exist.

Still, if you’re a blues buff, “Lightning in a Bottle” rates as a once-in-a-lifetime experience; if you’re new to the form, it would be hard to imagine a more rousing introduction.

Tele-video

In new TV-on-DVD developments, Warner Home Video leads the way with two fresh four-disc animated sets from its “Hanna-Barbera Golden Collection.” The Best of the New Scooby-Doo Movies” ($64.92) contains 15 vintage cartoon capers with voice guest stars ranging from Dick Van Dyke to Jonathan Winters, while The Flintstones: The Complete Third Season ($44.98) assembles all 28 Season Three episodes. Both arrive with featurettes and other bonuses.

NBC Home Entertainment revisits Michael Landon and his frontier family in Little House on the Prairie: Season 7 (six-disc, $49.99), assembling all 18 Season Seven (1980-81) episodes, along with new cast interviews, select audio commentary and a trivia quiz.

On the cathode crime scene, Universal Home Entertainment debuts the 1970s series The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries: Season One and Kojak: The Complete First Season (three-disc, $39.98 each).

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment issues the identity-shifting science-fiction series The Pretender in a four-disc set ($39.98) with select audio commentary, featurettes and TV spots.

The ‘A’ list

Two franchise comedies join the digital ranks this week. Renee Zellweger, flanked by Hugh Grant and Colin Firth, returns as the eponymous heroine in Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason ($29.98) in an extras-enhanced disc from Universal Home Entertainment. The Bill Cosby animated creation Fat Albert (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, $29.98) goes the live-action route, with a fat-suited Kenan Thompson as the titular teen in a special edition complete with filmmaker audio commentary, extended scene and featurette.

Both Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and Miramax Home Entertainment look to the British past — via Sony’s Being Julia ($26.96), set in 1930 and starring best actress Oscar contender Annette Bening, and Miramax’s turn-of-the-century Finding Neverland ($29.99), with fellow 2005 Oscar nominee Johnny Depp as playwright J.M. Barrie. Both arrive with a plethora of extras.

Lions Gate Home Entertainment forges into the future with the Robin Williams science-fiction showcase The Final Cut ($27.98), while “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” auteur Tobe Hooper goes for the jugular in the same label’s The Toolbox Murders ($26.98).

Collectors’ corner

MGM Home Entertainment presents a pair of ‘70s gems: Sam Peckinpah’s brilliant 1974 ode to chaos, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, starring Warren Oates, barrels in with bonus audio commentary by Peckinpah scholars, while James William Guercio’s twisty 1973 mystery Electra Glide in Blue, with Robert Blake, surfaces with a director’s audio commentary. The discs are tagged at $14.95 each.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: In the early 1970s, Dean Martin and Brian Keith starred in a comedy-Western entitled “Something Big.” Has this very funny movie ever been released on VHS or DVD?

Kevin Keene, via e-mail

That tongue-in-cheek 1971 oater has yet to enter the home video corral.

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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