- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Keyed to the upcoming theatrical release of director Nick “Chicken Run” Park’s latest stop-motion animation feature “Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit,” Sony Pictures Home Entertainment debuts the same animator’s brilliant 2003 British TV series Creature Comforts: The Complete First Season ($19.94). It’s our …

DVD pick of the week

Director Park and his Aardman Studios creative team introduced the concept of interviewing real people and placing their words in the mouths of a beguiling menagerie of animated animals with their Oscar-winning 1990 short, “Creature Comforts.”

Here, similar characters — ranging from a pragmatic pooch to an intellectual amoeba — share their views on a wide range of topics, from vacations and cuisine to the possibility of extraterrestrial life.

Running a streamlined 10 minutes each, the 13 episodes cleverly crosscut among the various interviewees’ often narrow, sometimes insightful and occasionally downright odd opinions to frequently hilarious effect. The lead-off episode, “The Circus,” with its talking monkey jugglers and ballerina bears, rates as an especially inspired example of Mr. Park and crew’s craft.

Two fascinating extras round out the collection, one demonstrating how the show’s creators match the human voices with their appropriate animal counterparts, another delving into the intricacies of the animation process. “Creature Comforts” is an utterly addictive treat.

The same can be said for DreamWorks Entertainment’s Wallace & Gromit in Three Amazing Adventures (three-disc, $19.99), assembling the fun 1990s shorts “A Grand Day Out,” “The Wrong Trousers” and “A Close Shave,” all starring the eponymous British bachelor and his brainy dog.

Tele-video

British comedy fans are in for a further bonanza with this week’s release of A&E Home Video’s massive The Complete Monty Python’s Flying Circus 16-Ton Megaset (16-disc, $199.99). The collection includes the entire run of “Python” episodes, the double-disc “Monty Python Live” and an impressive array of imaginative featurettes.

In other TV-on-DVD developments, Paramount Home Entertainment tickles Trekkies’ collective fancy with the seven-disc Star Trek Enterprise: The Complete Third Season ($129.99), complemented by featurettes, deleted scenes and bloopers.

The same label issues a bonus-packed four-disc edition of the reality show The Amazing Race: The First Season and the five-disc Hogan’s Heroes: The Complete Second Season ($38.99 each), the latter with audio commentaries, rare home movies and more.

Anchor Bay Entertainment offers a couchside marathon for cop-show fans with Michael Mann’s Crime Story: Season One (five-disc) and Season Two (four-disc, $39.98 each).

David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson continue on the conspiracy trail in the four-disc The X Files: Colonization ($39.98), containing 16 themed episodes from Seasons 5, 6, 7 and 8, plus extras.

Rhino Video roams the Old West with The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp (four-disc, $34.95), rounding up 26 episodes, a new interview with star Hugh O’Brian and more.

Collectors’ corner

Two quality fright films get a jump on the Halloween season: Dark Sky Films presents the genuinely harrowing indie horror Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer: 20th Anniversary Edition ($24.98), a double-disc set incorporating audio commentary by director John McNaughton, a fascinating behind-the-scenes documentary and more. MGM Home Entertainment mines a “quiet horror” vein with Frank LaLoggia’s unsettling 1988 ghost story Lady in White ($14.94), starring Lukas Haas and likewise brimming with eerie extras.

Paramount hits a lighter note with the 1956 Bing Crosby musical Anything Goes and the 1955 comedy We’re No Angels, starring Humphrey Bogart and Peter Ustinov ($14.99 each).

The ‘A’ list

Among recent theatrical releases making their digital debuts, Chris Wedges’ animated blockbuster Robots (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, $29.98), featuring the vocal talents of Robin Williams, Halle Berry and Mel Brooks, arrives in a bonus-packed edition complete with audio commentaries, featurettes, music videos and more.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment retools Catherine Hardwicke’s skateboard saga via Lords of Dogtown: Unrated Extended Cut ($28.95), while Wellspring Media debuts Todd Solondz’s surreal fable Palindromes ($29.98), starring Ellen Barkin and Jennifer Jason Leigh.

Video verite

In the documentary arena, Thinkfilm offers the acclaimed India-set Born into Brothels ($29.99), with filmmaker’s commentary, interviews, deleted scenes and more. Inecom time-travels to the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 via the bonus-laden Expo: Magic of the White City ($24.95), narrated by Gene Wilder, while the History Channel profiles several high-profile military commanders in the three-disc The Conquerors ($49.95).

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: I’m looking for quality copies on DVD (preferably) or VHS of episodes of the “Amos ‘n’ Andy” TV series.

John Kinyon, via e-mail

The best digital choice, quality- and volume-wise, appears to be Real Box Set Amos ‘n’ Andy DVD (18-disc, $199.99), available via Amazon.com and other online sources.

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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