- The Washington Times - Friday, February 29, 2008

The Darjeeling Limited (20th Century Fox, $29.99) — is one of Wes Anderson’s funniest films. Perhaps paradoxically, it’s also his most grown-up.

Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman star as three brothers who embark on a trip through India on the titular train in search of their mother and themselves. Well, that’s what they end up doing, anyway — Mr. Wilson’s character has tricked his two brothers into joining him on his spiritual search. The trio have barely spoken to each other since their father’s funeral a year before.

Each of the Whitman brothers is suffering from some kind of pain, in addition to the grief of their father’s death. Francis (Mr. Wilson) has a bandaged face and an unconvincing story about how it got that way. Peter (Mr. Brody) is happily married, but the panicked father-to-be inexplicably leaves for India without telling his wife. Jack (Mr. Schwartzman) is obsessed with his ex-girlfriend and has a talent nobody seems to take very seriously. “Want to read a short story I wrote in France?” he asks his brothers. “How long is it?” Francis wants to know first.

“The Darjeeling Limited” is a hilarious but poignant film. As Mr. Anderson’s movies always are, it’s also filled to the brim with wonderful things to look at.

The director’s visual charm is nowhere more apparent, though, than in “Hotel Chevalier,” the short film that shows Jack in a Paris hotel room just before the action of “Darjeeling.” You should watch this prologue before the feature film. Here, you’ll discover just why Jack is so besotted with his ex, played by Natalie Portman (in what was famously her first nude scene).

Besides the feature and the short, the DVD contains a 22-minute behind-the-scenes featurette. For those of us who marvel at the gorgeous visual quality of Mr. Anderson’s world, we’ll take any look into the making of it we can get. This one shows how they managed to get a film crew into the tight quarters of the train set.

Things We Lost in the Fire (Paramount, $29.99 for DVD, $39.99 for HD DVD) — The English-language debut of accomplished Danish director Susanne Bier isn’t as subtle and heartbreaking as her last European film, “After the Wedding.” However, “Things” is still a moving look at grief and guilt that’s well worth the watch. Halle Berry stars as a woman who loses her saintly husband (David Duchovny) and, at first reluctantly, takes on the project of helping his best friend (Benicio Del Toro), a recovering drug addict, put his own life back together. Both DVD versions of the film include some deleted scenes.

The Love Boat: Season One, Volume One (Paramount, $36.98) — Saturday nights now are pretty much a television wasteland — there’s nothing much worth staying home to watch. That wasn’t always the case, however. The escapist pairing of “The Love Boat” and “Fantasy Island” was a ratings bonanza for ABC in the 1970s and ‘80s. “The Love Boat,” created by late schlock-TV king Aaron Spelling, finally floats onto DVD next week with the first half of the first season on three discs.

“The Love Boat” was clever in that it intertwined story lines involving the regular cast — which included Gavin MacLeod as the captain, Bernie Kopell as the doctor, Fred Grandy as the purser, Ted Lange as the bartender and Lauren Tewes as the cruise director — with story lines involving the all-star guests who appeared in each episode. The big names appearing in these first episodes include John Ritter, Patty Duke, Suzanne Somers, Leslie Nielsen, Jaclyn Smith, Steve Allen and Florence Henderson.

Magnum P.I.: The Complete Eighth Season (Universal, $49.98) — You might have seen Thomas Magnum (played with suave finesse by Tom Selleck) left for dead at the end of the seventh season of the detective drama and thought you’d come to the end of the series. But no, the bad boy with a good heart returned — along with Rick, T.C. and the impeccably British Higgins (played by the Texan John Hillerman) — for one more season before the iconic series ended in 1988 with 30 awards to its name. This three-disc set also includes an episode of “The Rockford Files.” It’s one in which Tom Selleck guest-starred and that led to his most famous role.

Kelly Jane Torrance

The Fugitive: Season One, Volume Two (Paramount, $36.98) — Given the pressure these days to succeed immediately on network television, you wonder whether “The Fugitive” would have survived. In its debut season on ABC in 1963, it managed just a 28th place finish in overall ratings. Viewers, however, were intrigued enough by Dr. Richard Kimble (David Janssen), an Indiana physician falsely accused of murdering his wife, his pursuit of the one-armed man (real-life one-armed man and former Ziegeld Follies’ dancer-turned actor Bill Raisch) who committed the crime and Kimble’s pursuit by the relentless Lt. Philip Gerard (Barry Morse), to enable the show to continue for four more years. More than 30 million, in fact, tuned in for its dramatic finale on Aug. 29, 1967, making it the highest-rated series television episode to date at that time.

The first season’s first 15 episodes were released on DVD last summer. The four-disc Volume Two, clocking in at more than 10 hours, serves up the remaining 15, which also reveal more of Kimble’s back story. (We learn, for instance, that he was a Korean War veteran who narrowly escaped death.) Die-hard fans will delight in seeing the string of then-little-known guest stars who later achieved fame and fortune. They include future “Kojak” star Telly Savalas as a hotel owner, Carroll O’Connor (“All in the Family’s” Archie Bunker) as a bullying sheriff and Robert Duvall.

Robyn-Denise Yourse

Pat the Bunny: Playdates (Classic Media and Genius Products, $14.95) — It’s common knowledge that the movie is rarely as good as the book on which it’s based, and the familiar pattern certainly holds true for this new spinoff of the 1940s best-selling book — with the same title — that encourages infants and toddlers to see, touch and smell.

The DVD is intended for children six to 36 months (which means you have to ignore the American Academy of Pediatricians’ recommendation of “no television for kids under two years of age”) and includes original, but not very catchy tunes and way too many scenes of children swatting at balloons and touching fluffy blankets. At 62 minutes, it feels about one hour too long.

But why be so harsh toward this harmless fun? Well, it’s not completely harmless. Many scenes here feature characters (hand puppets Bunny, Tickle Pig and Squeak the Mouse) and babies eating grapes, hot dogs and playing with marbles. What were they thinking?

Then again, take it for what it is, and maybe you can find a virtue or two. It’s eye candy for the very young, and while its aim to educate mind and body is pretentious, it can work as distraction when mommy or daddy need a minute or two to themselves (tip: just keep the grapes and marbles out of reach).

Or as a friend once put it: “Whoever thought these shows would make kids smarter? I just pop it in when I need to take a shower.”

Gabriella Boston


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