- The Washington Times - Friday, July 4, 2008

The X-Files Revelations (Fox, $22.98) — “The X-Files: I Want to Believe,” the second feature film based on the cult television show, hits theaters July 25. Fox is releasing this two-disc set of what it calls “eight critical episodes,” including the pilot, to help viewers get ready.

Series creator Chris Carter chose these hour-long episodes and, along with producer Frank Spotnitz, tells viewers in introductions to each how they relate to the upcoming film. Don’t expect too many secrets to be revealed, though. Like the current hit “Lost,” “The X-Files” gained most of its mystique by keeping viewers guessing about the conspiracy theories.

Besides the intros, there are a couple more extras here to tempt fans who already have all nine seasons on DVD. Mr. Carter and Mr. Spotnitz, along with stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, appeared at the comic and science-fiction gathering WonderCon earlier this year for a 40-minute interview and question period, which is captured here. If you’re planning to see the feature film later this month, you can deduct from the set’s price the Hollywood Movie Money ticket worth $8.50 you can use toward theater admission.

Monk: Season Six and Psych: The Complete Second Season (Universal, $59.98 each) — It was difficult to imagine a more amusingly quirky series than the one about an obsessive-compulsive detective, “Monk.” Then USA Network added “Psych” to its schedule. The result is a well-written comedy-mystery block that comprises some of the best two hours on television.

The four-disc “Monk” set includes all 16 episodes of the sixth season, which just ended in February. Guest stars include comedian Sarah Silverman as - what else? - a crazy woman and Howie Mandel as a cult leader. The best appearance, though, has to be a hilarious Snoop Dogg in the episode “Mr. Monk and the Rapper.” This season includes the last episode in which Stanley Kamel appeared; the actor who memorably played Monk’s (the Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning Tony Shalhoub) put-upon psychiatrist died in April. Hector Elizondo will take on the role when the series resumes July 18.

“Psych” is also a four-disc set with sixteen episodes. The very funny series, which admirably treads a fine line between witty and silly, stars James Roday as a modern Sherlock Holmes whose powers of observation are so great that he’s able to convince the Santa Barbara police department that he’s a psychic. Dule Hill is his only slightly more sensible sidekick. The guest stars here include Lou Diamond Phillips, Tim Curry and Gina Gershon.

Both sets include bonus material, including commentaries, deleted scenes and gag reels. The “Psych” set also includes those little animated “Webisodes,” “Lil’ Shawn and Gus,” that migrated from the Web to breaks in the show on TV. These aren’t nearly as funny as the series itself, though.

Mad Men: Season One (Lionsgate, $49.98 for DVD, $49.99 for Blu-ray) — Although you may be used to watching your favorite television series in high-definition, not that many of them are being released on Blu-ray yet. (“Desperate Housewives,” for example, is filmed in high-def but isn’t released on Blu-ray.) Because so much of the appeal of the ultrastylish “Mad Men” is in its visuals, it’s fitting that the AMC series is getting a high-def release.

Creator Matthew Weiner was an executive producer and writer on “The Sopranos,” and he brings that same cinematic vision to this series about a Madison Avenue advertising firm in the industry’s 1960s golden age. In fact, with this bold new series, AMC might see itself as the heir of HBO. “Mad Men” won the Golden Globes for best drama and best actor in a drama (series star Jon Hamm), and the American Film Institute named it one of last year’s 10 best TV series. Add to that a lot of critical love, as well as daring looks into work and sex in a time of great change between the sexes in America, and you have one of the most buzzed-about shows on television.

Besides all 13 episodes of the first season, there is a big array of bonus materials. You would have to be a big fan to get through all the commentaries, yet even the casual fan will likely find the examination of the real-life ad industry interesting.

The DVD set includes four discs, while the Blu-ray set fits everything on three. There’s one thing you won’t get if you opt for Blu-ray, though: The DVD version comes housed in a clever metal case that looks like a lighter. As those behind the striking look of “Mad Men” know, smoking adds rather a lot of sexiness to a scene. The second season of the show bows on July 27.

The Tracey Fragments (Thinkfilm, $27.98) — That “The Tracey Fragments” didn’t get a theatrical release here in the District, despite having “Juno’s” Oscar-nominated Ellen Page for its star, is a testament to just how odd this movie is. It played at Filmfest DC earlier this year and now makes its appearance on DVD. It’s a bit of a mess of a film, but one guesses that eclectic Canadian director Bruce McDonald was attracted to the material because of its nonlinearity.

“I’m Tracey Berkowitz, 15. Just a normal girl who hates herself,” Miss Page intones at the beginning of the film. Tracey finds herself in anything but normal circumstances, though. When her younger brother goes missing because of her own negligence, the girl runs away from home and meets up with assorted unsavories on her quest to find him. (You won’t realize that’s the plot until part way through the film.)

Although the dialogue is often banal, there’s something moving about this portrait of a scared but tough girl. The screen is often split into frames, allowing us to see how different characters see the same situation. It’s a great metaphor for the chasms in communication between parents and children and boys and girls.

Gangs of New York (Buena Vista, $34.99 for Blu-ray) — Martin Scorsese’s 2002 historical gangster flick comes to high-definition. Daniel Day-Lewis‘ Oscar-winning performance in last year’s “There Will Be Blood” reminded many critics of his turn in this film as crime boss Bill “The Butcher” Cutting. In fact, Mr. Day-Lewis was nominated for “Gangs” as well, but the film didn’t win a single one of the 10 Academy Awards for which it was nominated. Mr. Scorsese, of course, finally got his first best-director Oscar four years later, for “The Departed.” “Gangs of New York” was a much more visually driven film than that one, though, and it’s about time it got the Blu-ray treatment.



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