- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 29, 2006

With a style owing more to stateside thriller specialist Michael Mann than countryman John Woo, director Johnny To puts a fresh spin on the Hong Kong crime genre with his scalding caper Breaking News, new from Palm Pictures Home Entertainment ($19.95). It’s our …

DVD pick of the week

Opening with a breathless seven-minute tracking shot that recalls Orson Welles’ “Touch of Evil,” the film depicts a blown police stakeout that erupts in a wild gun battle between a quintet of fleeing gangsters and a horde of confused cops.

When four of the criminals make good their escape, leaving considerable law-enforcement carnage in their wake, reporters descend on the Hong Kong police department, prompting publicity-minded Inspector Rebecca Fong (Kelly Chen) to initiate a desperate plan to reverse the negative attention.

Determined detective Cheung (Nick Cheung) seemingly supplies that opportunity when he discovers the fugitives hiding in an apartment complex, with three hostages in tow. But after embedding the reporters in the subsequent police siege, Inspector Fong realizes that her scheme may backfire big-time.

Director To succeeds in blending bursts of kinetic action with deft character sketches and acid-tipped jabs at both journalists and police bureaucrats who are more interested in self-aggrandizement than public safety. In a swiftly paced 90 minutes, “Breaking News” manages to accomplish far more than most bloated Hollywood thrillers.

While the extras are a bit thin — a token behind-the-scenes featurette, a deleted scene and trailers — the film itself easily justifies the rental price.

Tele-video

Offbeat comedy leads the way in a busy TV-on-DVD week. Paramount Home Entertainment introduces the surreal juvenile antics of The Andy Milonakis Show: The Complete First Season and the adult-oriented post-modern kiddie-show parody Wonder Showzen: Season One (two-disc, $26.99 each), both equipped with copious extras.

From Britain, A&E Home Video proffers Rowan (Mr. Bean) Atkinson in The Best of ‘Not The 9 O’Clock News’ (two-disc, $24.95) and the animated spy send-up Danger Mouse: The Complete Seasons 5 & 6 (two-disc, $29.95), along with the whimsical animated series The Wind in the Willows: A Tale of Two Toads ($19.95).

Universal Studios Home Entertainment, meanwhile, keeps the icy ironies coming via a bonus-packed Northern Exposure: The Complete Fourth Season (three-disc, $59.98).

In a more earnest vein, the late Michael Landon stars in the 25-episode Highway to Heaven: Season Three (A&E Home Video, seven-disc, $69.98), while Walt Disney Home Entertainment issues the 2005 miniseries Little House on the Prairie (two-disc, $29.99).

In other dramatic developments, HBO Video offers Six Feet Under: The Complete Fifth Season (five-disc, $99.99), while Universal Studios Home Entertainment revisits the West Coast intrigues at Knots Landing: The Complete First Season (five-disc, $39.98).

MPI Home Video slakes the thirst of goth-opera fans with the 40-episode Dark Shadows DVD Collection 23 (four-disc, $59.98) and unearths a cathode rarity with the 1950s English sci-fi series H.G. Wells’ Invisible Man: Season One (two-disc, $29.98).

Elsewhere on the sci-fi front, BBC Video debuts Dr. Who: The Beginning (three-disc, $49.98), with a host of extras, while Universal Studios continues Scott Bakula’s time-traveling adventures in Quantum Leap: The Complete Fourth Season (three-disc, $49.98).

Anchor Bay Entertainment unleashes the first two installments of the cable TV shiver show “Masters of Horror” — John Carpenter’s Cigarette Burns and Stuart Gordon’s Dreams in the Witch House ($16.98 each), both equipped with eerie extras galore.

The ‘A’ list

Among recent theatrical releases surfacing on DVD this week, Peter Jackson’s King Kong stomps the digital competition, arriving in a double-disc edition (Universal, $30.98), with more extras than you can shake a giant paw at, including featurettes, production diaries and behind-the-scenes footage.

Outsized predatory critters likewise play a large role in Peter Hyams’ Ray Bradbury adaptation A Sound of Thunder (Warner Home Video, $27.98), starring Edward Burns and Ben Kingsley.

Also in this week are the Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson showcase Get Rich or Die Tryin’ (Paramount, $29.99), the offbeat comedy Love on the Side (Universal, $27.98) and the bonus-packed best-seller translation Memoirs of a Geisha (Sony Pictures, two-disc, $28.96).

Collectors’ corner

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment celebrates simian cinema with its six-disc Planet of the Apes: The Legacy Collection ($49.98), bundling the original 1968 sci-fi giant with all four big-screen sequels plus bonus materials.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment likewise thinks big with Godzilla: Monster Edition ($19.94), repackaging the 1998 American remake with bonus features old and new.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Any idea when Rolling Thunder or Payday are going to be released on DVD?

Ray Ross, Virginia Beach

Haven’t heard of any imminent plans, but both are still available on VHS via Good Times and Warner Home Video, respectively, from 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 [email protected]aol.com. Check out our Web site at www.videoscopemag.com.

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