- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 13, 2007

Veteran U.K. director Ken Loach has long exhibited a strong knack for placing viewers in the middle of the dramatic action, and never more brilliantly than in his latest, The Wind That Shakes the Barley, new from Genius Entertainment ($19.94). It’s our …

DVD pick of the week

Set in 1920s Ireland, the film focuses on two brothers whose lives are radically altered as a result of the ongoing British occupation and the blatant murder of their young friend-turned-martyr Michaeil (Laurence Barry). Damien O’Donovan (the versatile Cillian Murphy) abandons his planned medical career to join a local band of freedom fighters headed by his brother Teddy (Padraic Delaney). But the siblings soon fall out over a controversial peace treaty with the enemy that Teddy endorses and Damien resists.

While “Wind” presents a deft overview of the larger conflict, Mr. Loach and screenwriter Paul Laverty concentrate primarily on the personal toll, as ordinary people on all sides suffer at the manipulative hands of a relative few. With its believable characters and faithful period designs, the film evokes a near documentary feel while never forgoing its sense of intimacy.

Extras include a feature commentary with Mr. Loach and a look at his lengthy career. Deserving winner of the Palme D’Or at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, “The Wind That Shakes the Barley” leaves the viewer moved as well.

Tele-video

In TV on DVD news, a pair of popular 1960s sitcoms surface this week — John Astin and Carolyn Jones in The Addams Family Volume 3 (MGM Home Entertainment, three-disc, $29.98), backed by audio commentaries, and McHale’s Navy: Season Two (Shout! Factory, five-disc, $44.99).

The latter label also continues the adventures of “The Film Crew,” with former “Mystery Science Theater 3000” wits led by Michael J. Nelson taking on the fun 1958 tropical turkey Wild Women of Wongo ($19.99). Warner Home Video covers the contemporary comedy front with Charlie Sheen and Jon Cryer in Two and a Half Men: The Complete First Season (four-disc, $44.98).

In dramatic genre developments, Emily Deschanel and David Boreanaz investigate anew in Bones: Season Two (six-disc, $59.98), armed with audio commentaries, featurettes, deleted scenes and gag reel; Alyssa Milano and fellow witches cast their last spells in Charmed: The Final Season (Paramount Home Entertainment, six-disc, $54.99); and Sandra Oh and her medical colleagues return in Grey’s Anatomy: Season Three (Buena Vista Home Entertainment, seven-disc, $59.99), supplemented by extended episodes, commentaries and featurettes.

Elsewhere, Paramount presents the extras-enhanced animated adventure Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Complete Book 2 Collection (five-disc, $64.99), HBO Video hosts the Emmy-nominated fact-based Western Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (two-disc, $26.98), and Judith Scheindlin holds court in Judge Judy: Justice Served (Allumination Filmworks, $19.98).

On the British beat, Acorn Media introduces the eight-episode 1920s Liverpool-set miniseries Lilies (three-disc, $49.99) and Prime Suspect 7: The Final Act (two-disc, $29.99), starring Helen Mirren as a determined detective. WGBH Boston Video likewise goes the mystery route with Robert Lindsay as Jericho of Scotland Yard 2 (two-disc, $29.95).

Collectors’ corner

MGM and Fox Home Entertainment delve deep into their combined vaults this week to retrieve a treasure trove of terror treats for the upcoming Halloween season. Highlights include Bert I. Gordon’s 1978 giant-ant campfest Food of the Gods, starring Marjoe Gortner; a flawlessly restored “Unrated Director’s Cut” of Stuart Gordon’s cleverly irreverent 1986 H.P. Lovecraft adaptation From Beyond, complete with filmmaker commentary and other choice extras ($14.98 each); and Dan O’Bannon’s inspired 1985 zombie romp Return of the Living Dead ($19.98), with two commentary tracks and multiple featurettes.

20th Century Fox unleashes The Lost World: 2-Disc Collector’s Edition ($19.98), containing both the impressive 1925 silent, with pioneering effects work by near-future “King Kong” creator Willis O’Brien, and Irwin Allen’s 1960 adaptations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s prehistoric creature-fueled yarn.

John Woo’s over-the-top 1996 action thriller Face/Off (Paramount, $19.98), with John Travolta and Nicolas Cage, and Mike Nichols’ 1967 The Graduate (MGM, $24.98), starring Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft, also arrive in bonus-packed special editions.

The ‘A’ list

Serious dramas dominate a fairly light theatrical-to-DVD week. Julie Christie headlines in Sarah Polley’s Alzheimer’s-themed Away From Her (Lionsgate Home Entertainment, $27.98), based on an Alice Munro short story.

Sigourney Weaver plays an autistic woman in Snowcake (Genius Entertainment, $19.95), and Juliette Binoche portrays a French secret service operative in the thriller A Few Days in September (Koch Lorber Films, $26.98), co-starring Nick Nolte.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Where can I purchase DVDs of the old Mayberry R.F.D.show?

J.Y., Ellicott City, Md.

While the entire “Andy Griffith Show” is now available on DVD via Paramount, that spinoff series has yet to receive a home-video release.

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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