- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 11, 2005

A spirited, high-profile cast fuels the entertaining, underseen Hollywood-wannabe send-up “The Last Shot,” new this week from Touchstone Home Entertainment ($29.99). It’s our…

DVD pick of the week

Loosely based, incredibly enough, on an actual case, writer-director Jeff Nathanson’s story focuses on Joe Devine (Alec Baldwin), an enterprising FBI agent who engineers a scheme to start a fictitious film in order to nail teamster-connected Mafiosi in Providence, R.I.

Agent Devine hastens to Los Angeles to learn the cutthroat industry ropes and enlist an unsuspecting writer-director to help set his plan in motion. He finds his man in terminal naif Steven Schats (Matthew Broderick), who is eager to realize his long-deferred filmmaking dreams.

Soon Devine — and his agency colleagues — get bitten big-time by the movie bug and vow to make their film in earnest.

While occasionally echoing earlier celluloid satires, particularly 1995’s “Get Shorty,” “The Last Shot” delivers more than its fair share of original idiosyncratic delights, from a brilliant opening-credit sequence to a running riff involving Devine’s abiding love for dogs.

Among the talented cast — Calista Flockhart, Ray Liotta, Joan Cusack and Tony Shalhoub are also onboard — Toni Collette effortlessly lifts her scenes as a former A-list starlet desperate to headline in the bogus production.

Extras include audio commentary with auteur Nathanson and actor Broderick, deleted scenes and a fascinating documentary that reunites the real-life agent and would-be filmmakers who inspired the on-screen characters.

“The Last Shot” rates as a prime example of an overlooked winner finding new life on DVD.

Tele-video

On the busy TV-on-DVD front, Paramount Home Entertainment launches Star Trek Enterprise: The Complete First Season ($129.99), an eight-disc extravaganza containing all 19 first-season episodes of the interstellar spinoff series, plus more than two hours of bonus material, from select audio commentaries to featurettes.

Paramount also casts its eye skyward for the inspirational series Joan of Arcadia: The First Season (six discs, $54.99), starring Amber Tamblyn, Mary Steenburgen and Joe Mantegna.

The same label looks to the past with the five-disc, 30-episode, extras-enhanced I Love Lucy: The Complete Fourth Season ($54.99) and the six-disc, 39-episode Richard Boone sagebrush showcase Have Gun, Will Travel: The Complete Second Season ($44.99).

Elsewhere, HBO Video debuts the cutting-edge series Entourage: The Complete First Season (two discs, $39.98). Jim Carrey and the Wayans clan romp anew in In Living Color: Season Three (three discs, $39.98). Scott Bakula time-travels in the 22-episode Quantum Leap: Season 3 (three discs, $49.98). WGBH Boston Video repairs to the kitchen with the Julia Child series The French Chef (three discs, $39.98).

The ‘A’ list

Among recent theatrical releases making their digital debuts, Touchstone Home Entertainment lavishes deluxe treatment on Wes Anderson’s ensemble comedy The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou ($32.99), surfacing in a double-disc edition with more extras than you can bait a hook with, from commentaries to featurettes.

In a more earnest vein, the related Miramax Home Entertainment label offers the Oscar-nominated French import Les Choristes (“The Chorus”), tagged at $29.99.

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment introduces bonus-laden editions of the corporate-themed comedy In Good Company, starring Dennis Quaid and Topher Grace, and the urban action remake Assault on Precinct 13 ($29.98 each), with Laurence Fishburne and Ethan Hawke.

Al Pacino exercises his Shylock chops in The Merchant of Venice (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, $26.96), while Lions Gate Home Entertainment unleashes the high-decibel video-game adaptation Alone in the Dark ($27.98).

Collectors’ corner

Warner Home Video introduces one of the digital industry’s best sets yet, the dynamic, seven-disc Controversial Classics Collection ($79.92), granting gala treatment to a septet of groundbreaking, social-issue-oriented films:

• Henry Fonda and Charles Laughton in Otto Preminger’s 1962 behind-the-scenes political drama Advise and Consent, drawn from the Allen Drury novel.

• Arthur Hiller’s acerbic satire The Americanization of Emily (1964), set in World War II and starring James Garner and Julie Andrews, with script by Paddy Chayefsky.

• A no-nonsense Spencer Tracy in John Sturges’ taut 1954 racism expose Bad Day at Black Rock.

• Glenn Ford and Sidney Poitier in Richard Brooks’ hard-hitting 1955 juvenile-delinquency drama Blackboard Jungle.

• Andy Griffith as a country singer turned dangerous television demagogue in director Elia Kazan and writer Budd Schulberg’s disturbingly prescient media-manipulation meditation A Face in the Crowd (1957).

• Fritz Lang’s 1936 lynch-mob indictment Fury, with Spencer Tracy and Sylvia Sydney.

• Paul Muni in Mervyn LeRoy’s wrenching, fact-based 1932 I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang.

All arrive with compelling extras. The titles are also available individually ($19.97 each).

Animated antics

Warner Home Video digs deep into the cathode cartoon vaults for two series from its Hanna-Barbera Classic Collection: Dastardly & Muttley in Their Flying Machines: The Complete Series and The Perils of Penelope Pitstop: The Complete Series ($34.98 each). Both three-disc, 17-episode series race in with extras galore.

In the animated-feature-film arena, Walt Disney Home Entertainment’s double-disc Pocahontas: 10th Anniversary Edition ($29.99) proffers both the original theatrical film and a new extended version, along with a wigwam full of extras.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Is the 1950s horror film Fiend Without a Face on DVD yet?

Steve K., via e-mail

That 1958 shocker is available in a deluxe edition from Criterion Collection ($39.98).

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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