- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Director Steven Spielberg delivers both a polished, white-knuckle thriller and a hard lesson in the futility of revenge in Munich, new from Universal Studios Home Entertainment in separate single- and double-disc editions ($29.98, $44.98). It’s our …

DVD pick of the week

Australian actor Eric Bana, late of “The Hulk,” brings strength, vulnerability and nuance to his role as Avner, a reluctant Israeli undercover agent assigned to assassinate 11 suspected architects of the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre.

With his team of four fellow specialists, Avner crisscrosses Europe in search of his targets, many of whom live seemingly respectable lives. But each successful hit only inspires violent retaliation and the immediate replacement of his latest victim with another, equally dangerous terrorist mastermind.

Veteran screenwriter Eric Roth and playwright Tony Kushner (of “Angels in America” fame) lend shading to their characters, from the antiterrorist team members to Avner’s waiting wife (Ayelet Zurer) and covert Israeli contact (Geoffrey Rush), while Mr. Spielberg yields maximum tension from his action sequences and atmosphere from his many and varied locations, ranging from Athens to Brooklyn.

Universal’s special edition includes an introduction by Mr. Spielberg and a wealth of featurettes ranging from a look at the actual events that inspired the film to behind-the-scenes coverage of virtually every phase of production.

“Munich” represents one of 2005’s most powerful screen achievements.

Tele-video

Comedy again dominates the week’s busy TV-on-DVD slate. Buena Vista Home Entertainment contributes a pair of sitcom hits, The Golden Girls: The Complete Fifth Season and Scrubs: The Complete Third Season (three-disc, $39.99 each), both arriving with ample extras, while the related Walt Disney Home Entertainment label introduces the family-friendly puppet show Dinosaurs: The Complete First and Second Seasons (four-disc, $39.99).

Paramount Home Entertainment salutes the 1950s comedy classic Sgt. Bilko: 50th Anniversary Edition (three-disc, $39.99), returns to Mayberry with The Andy Griffith Show: The Complete Sixth Season (five-disc, $39.99) and celebrates the neurotic ‘90s with the brilliant animated series Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist: Season One ($19.99).

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment continues the nostalgic merriment with That ‘70s Show: Season 4 (four-disc, $49.98), housemother Charlotte Rae seeks to impart wisdom to her teenage charges in the 1980s’ The Facts of Life: The Complete First and Second Seasons (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, four-disc, $39.95), while HBO Video moves into the present millennium with the Ray Romano showcase Everybody Loves Raymond: The Complete Sixth Season (five-disc, $44.98).

From across the pond, BBC Video imports the long-running cult sci-fi satire series Red Dwarf: Series VIII (three-disc, $44.98), complete with a cargo of extras, including behind-the-scenes featurettes.

In the dramatic arena, Warner Home Video introduces Life Goes On: The Complete First Season (six-disc, $39.98), Sony Pictures issues the Denis Leary firehouse series Rescue Me: The Complete Second Season (three-disc, $49.95), while Warner Home Video releases The West Wing: The Complete Sixth Season (six-disc, $59.98), with select commentaries and more.

The ‘A’ list

Among recent theatrical films making their digital debuts, Universal Studios piles on the extras for the Emma Thompson-starred family fantasy-comedy Nanny McPhee ($29.98), including gag reel, deleted scenes and more. New Line Home Entertainment offers Terrence Malick’s visually stunning historical meditation The New World ($27.98), starring Colin Farrell, while Warner Home Video bows the romantic comedy Rumor Has It ($28.98), with Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Costner and Shirley MacLaine.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment looks for laughs via the extras-enhanced Martin Lawrence sequel Big Momma’s House 2 ($29.98) and the generation-clash romp Grandma’s Boy ($27.98), while Diane Keaton stars in (and provides audio commentary for) the drama Surrender, Dorothy (Sony Pictures, $24.96).

Collectors’ corner

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment readies double-disc special editions of two all-star epics by Irwin Allen, known as the “Master of Disaster” — 1972’s original The Poseidon Adventure and 1974’s The Towering Inferno ($19.98 each), equipped with all-new audio commentaries, nine featurettes each, deleted/extended scenes and much more.

Warner Home Video dusts off a pair of vintage Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz farces, Forever, Darling (1956), co-starring James Mason, and 1954’s The Long, Long Trailer ($14.97 each).

Foreign fare

First Run Features unearths a brace of acclaimed German films set in World War II, the 1963 road comedy Carbide and Sorrell and the 1961 fact-based military drama The Gleiwitz Case ($24.95 each).

Video verite

In the documentary department, David Attenborough employs state-of-the-art computer techniques to explore the universe of insects in Life in the Undergrowth (BBC Video, $34.98).

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Is it possible to get a video of the English movie, The Croupier?

B. Calvin, via e-mail

Mike Hodge’s 1998 thriller (Image Entertainment, $19.99) is available on DVD via Amazon.com and other 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 [email protected]aol.com. Check out our Web site at www.videoscopemag.com.

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