- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 9, 2005

More a morality meditation than a straight-ahead thriller, Sebastian Cordero’s Spanish-language Cronicas, new this week from Palm Pictures ($24.99), poses serious questions about media manipulation and its potentially tragic consequences. It’s our …

DVD pick of the week

John Leguizamo stars as Manolo Bonilla, an ambitious, rules-bending TV reporter dispatched from Miami to rural Ecuador to investigate a spate of vicious child murders committed by the at-large “Monster of Babahoyo.”

When a young boy’s accidental vehicular death stirs an already enraged citizenry to nearly kill the driver responsible, traveling salesman Vinicio (Damien Alcazar), Manolo intervenes to save the latter’s life. While in jail for involuntary manslaughter, Vinicio claims to have met the elusive “Monster,” offering crime-scene details that lead Manolo to suspect that Vinicio himself may indeed be the culprit.

While much of the film’s suspense hinges on Vinicio’s guilt or innocence, writer-director Cordero devotes ample screen time to developing his main characters, not only the meddling, morally ambiguous Manolo, but his concerned fellow correspondent Marisa (Leonor Watling), with whom he initiates a latently destructive affair, malleable cameraman Ivan (Jose Maria Yazpik), frustrated local police captain Rojas (Camilo Luzuriaga), and the evasive Vinicio. Events ultimately take an ironic twist that further muddies the moral waters.

DVD extras include an audio commentary by Mr. Cordero, a behind-the-scenes featurette, an alternate ending, deleted scenes and more, along with optional English subtitles. When it comes to contemporary thinking-viewer thrillers, “Cronicas” earns a spot near the top of the list.

Tele-video

In fresh TV-on-DVD developments, The Ingalls family returns to the small screen in Little House on the Prairie: Season 9 (six-disc, $49.98), complete with new cast interviews, documentaries and more. Another reigning family unit provides the focus for Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s The Partridge Family: The Complete Second Season (three-disc, $29.95).

Buena Vista Home Entertainment likewise bows a brace of family-friendly series: the vintage Outback-set Australian “Western” Five Mile Creek: The Complete First Season (four-disc, $39.99) and Sarah Polley in Tales From Avonlea: The Complete First Season (three-disc, $34.99).

In the animated arena, MTV Home Entertainment issues Beavis and Butt-Head: The Mike Judge Collection (three-disc, $38.99), assembling 40 cartoons handpicked by Mr. Judge, “B&B” ‘s creator, along with featurettes, music videos, promos, montages and more. Anchor Bay Entertainment adopts a more futuristic twist with the CGI animated sci-fi series Tripping the Rift: The Complete First Season: Unrated (three-disc, $29.98).

Elsewhere, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment contributes extras-enhanced editions of Remington Steele: Season Two, starring Pierce Brosnan and Stephanie Zimbalist, and the hoops-themed The White Shadow: The Complete First Season. The four-disc sets are tagged at $39.98 each.

Reality TV is represented by two new automotive-driven sets: American Chopper: Third Season and Monster Garage: Season Three (three-disc, $29.99 each), both new from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Collectors’ corner

Sony Pictures fires both barrels via its World War II: 60th Anniversary Collections, a pair of box sets aimed at military-movie buffs. Set 1 gathers Das Boot: The Director’s Cut, Humphrey Bogart in The Caine Mutiny and Robert Mitchum in Anzio. Box 2 collects the classics From Here to Eternity, The Guns of Navarone and The Bridge on the River Kwai. Both four-DVD sets ($39.95 each) come equipped with a bonus disc armed with special features, plus a collectible movie scrapbook.

Koch Entertainment extends gala treatment to a pair of foreign faves, with extras-enriched editions of Lars von Trier’s brilliant hospital-set horror show The Kingdom: Series One (two-disc, $34.98) and Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita: Deluxe Collector’s Edition (three-disc, $79.98).

The ‘A’ list

Among recent theatrical films making their digital debuts, Warner Home Video leads the way with a deluxe double-disc edition of Tim Burton’s Roald Dahl adaptation Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ($30.97); bonus goodies include a wealth of featurettes. In a holiday vein, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment ushers in the comedy Christmas With the Kranks ($19.95), starring Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis.

At the opposite end of the thematic spectrum, Lions Gate Home Entertainment unleashes Rob Zombie’s roadkill caper The Devil’s Rejects in separate R and Unrated editions. This sequel to “House of 1000 Corpses” arrives with two audio commentaries, deleted scenes, a blooper reel and more.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Ever since The Great Raid was released, I have looked for it in my local theater and also ones nearby. Not to be found! What gives?

Barbara LaFontaine, via e-mail

“The Great Raid” received only a limited theatrical release but will be accessible to all when Buena Vista Home Entertainment issues separate original and director’s cut editions, with a planned Dec. 20 appearance.

Send your video comments and queries to Phantom of the Movies, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002, or e-mail us at [email protected]aol.com. Check out our Web site at www.videoscopemag.com.

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