- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Not one but two wonders from Down Under join the stateside digital ranks: Synapse Films’ ingenious 1978 eco-thriller Long Weekend ($19.95) and Facets Video’s powerful 2002 period adventure The Tracker ($29.95). They’re our …

DVD picks of the week

Something of an Outback precursor to “Open Water,” director Colin Eggleston and scenarist Everett De Rochje’s “Long Weekend” emerges as a complex wilderness fear fable that places a troubled and casually nature-abusing young couple, Peter (John Hargreaves) and Marcia (Briony Behets), in a physically dangerous situation that parallels their alternately fragile and fractious emotional states.

The two are at odds right from the get-go, with Peter’s overstated enthusiasm contrasting with Marcia’s resentful reserve. The couple’s core issues are gradually revealed, and the test to which they’re ultimately put will either cement or sever their crumbling bond.

Synapse Films’ DVD includes audio commentary by producer Richard Brennan and cinematographer Vincent Monton, an interview with the late Mr. Hargreaves, a stills gallery and original theatrical trailer.

“The Tracker” stars a peerless David Gulpilil as an outback-wise guide who reluctantly leads a trio of white lawmen on a grueling search for a fellow aborigine accused of murdering a white woman. It eventually becomes clear that the tracker harbors a much different agenda, one that will lead to a far fairer brand of justice.

Writer-director Rolf de Heer takes his time steadily building suspense and deepening his characters while painting a visually beautiful, brutally racist portrait of 1922 Australia.

While Mr. Gulpilil, deserving winner of an Australian Film Critics Circle Best Actor award, commands the screen, he receives solid support from fellow thesps Gary Sweet, Damon Garneau and Grant Page, along with a haunting score performed by Archie Roach. Facets’ disc includes the excellent bonus documentary profile “Gulpilil: One Red Blood.”

Collectors’ Corner

Batmania rules at area vidstores this week. Warner Home Video not only bows a bonus-packed double-disc edition of Christopher Nolan’s 2005 Batman Begins ($30.97), introducing Christian Bale as the Caped Crusader, but repackages the four previous “Batman” series entries in the eight-disc Batman: The Motion Picture Anthology 1989-1997 ($79.92).

In addition to the films — Batman (1989), Batman Returns (1992), Batman Forever (1995) and Batman & Robin (1997) — the set contains more than 18 hours of extras, including audio commentaries, documentaries, featurettes and music videos. The titles also are available individually (two-disc, $26.99 each).

Not to be outdone, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment resurrects that comic book hero’s first screen incarnation, 1943’s fun, 15-chapter serial, Batman (two-disc, $29.95).

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment salutes a real-life screen icon with its five-disc Bruce Lee Ultimate Collection ($49.98), assembling a quintet of 1970s kung-fu faves starring the late, great martial-arts master: The Big Boss, Fists of Fury, Way of the Dragon, Game of Death and Game of Death II. Extras include celebrity and martial artist interviews, rare outtakes, original trailers and more.

Universal Studios Home Entertainment celebrates a major fictional cult figure via its The Big Lebowski Limited Edition Gift Set ($49.98). The Coen Brothers’ remastered 1998 comedy classic, starring Jeff Bridges, comes complete with a “making-of” documentary, a new photo gallery, four character coasters and a collectible bowling towel. Yeah.

Tele-video

In new TV-on-DVD developments, Paramount Home Entertainment issues CSI: NY: The Complete First Season in a seven-disc set ($64.99) containing all 24 Season One episodes, five exclusive featurettes, and seven audio commentaries.

DreamWorks Home Entertainment releases the acclaimed Western miniseries Into the West (four-disc, $49.99), augmented by featurettes and a music video.

Executive producers George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh fuse reality and fiction in the innovative comedy series about struggling young actors, Unscripted (HBO Video, two-disc, $34.98), while Sony Pictures Home Entertainment mines a mirthful vein via The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: The Complete Second Season (four-disc, $29.98).

The ‘A’ list

Among recent theatrical releases making their digital debuts, zombie master George A. Romero returns to vintage living-dead form with his long-awaited Land of the Dead: Unrated Director’s Cut ($29.98), fleshed out by a director’s audio commentary, featurettes and more.

Elsewhere, urban youth cut a mean rug in the hit documentary Mad Hot Ballroom (Paramount Home Entertainment, $29.99). Triple threat Miranda July writes, directs and stars in the indie comedy Me and You and Everyone We Know. Joan Chen toplines in Alice Wu’s romantic comedy Saving Face (both Sony Pictures, $24.96 each).

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: I have had no luck in trying to find out where I might buy a copy of the 1966 British comedy classic The Wrong Box .

P. Arnold, via e-mailThat 1966 romp is available (VHS only) via amazon.com.

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.videoscope mag.com.

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