- The Washington Times - Friday, March 28, 2008

Lost Highway (Universal, $19.98) — “Lost Highway,” which begins when a couple’s life is disrupted by the arrival of videotapes showing their home under surveillance, marked a turning point in avant-garde director David Lynch’s career. It and his films since, with the exception of the aptly titled “The Straight Story,” explore our deepest desires through increasingly blurred lines between reality and dreams.

Although a decade old, “Lost Highway” holds up well — not even its distinctively claustrophobic rock soundtrack sounds dated. Bill Pullman stars as Fred, a jazz saxophonist whose relationship with his redheaded wife Renee, played by Patricia Arquette, Mr. Lynch shows to be troubled almost without words. One of those mysterious tapes eventually shows him murdering her, although Fred insists he’s innocent. On Death Row, Fred inexplicably turns into Pete (Balthazar Getty), a young auto mechanic. Having done nothing wrong, Pete is set free, but he soon meets his own version of Miss Arquette, this one a blonde named Alice. She proves just as dangerous as the other in this psychological thriller that’s part noir and all David Lynch.

This is the first time “Lost Highway” has been available on DVD in the U.S. — you previously had to order a copy from Canada. It comes, alas, without a single extra.

The Tomorrow Show With Tom Snyder: John, Paul, Tom & Ringo (Shout! Factory, $24.99) — The late Tom Snyder, on his path-breaking late-night talk show “Tomorrow,” might have come off as a pretty cool customer. What this DVD release proves, though, is that he had nothing on the Beatles.

This two-disc set features three separate interviews with three of the Beatles. The biggest draw is the first. As Mr. Snyder noted in the show that aired Dec. 9., 1980, John Lennon was murdered the night before, and the host’s April 25, 1975, show turned out to be Mr. Lennon’s last televised interview. Before replaying that interview in its entirety as a tribute, “Tomorrow” played one excerpt from it, in which Mr. Lennon talks about how much easier it is to walk the streets now that Beatlemania has passed — he gets the odd fan asking for his autograph, but that’s about it. It’s chilling to watch knowing that Mr. Lennon was killed by one of those autograph seekers.

Among the many topics Mr. Snyder and Mr. Lennon discuss — and “Tomorrow” segments sometimes came across more as conversations than interviews — is the evergreen question of why the greatest band of all time decided to call it quits. “We didn’t break up because we weren’t friends. We just broke up out of sheer boredom,” Mr. Lennon revealed. “And boredom creates tension.”

The band members had gotten any fighting out of their system in the early days, when Mr. Lennon said Paul McCartney was always the more popular among the girls in the dance clubs of Liverpool. Speaking of girls, Mr. Snyder, displaying little knowledge of the Beatles’ back story, asks if groupies already existed when the band was in its heyday. “Yes, they were great,” Mr. Lennon says, laughing.

The topic seems to be of great interest to the host — he grills Mr. McCartney and his wife, Linda, about it several times, to their clear discomfort. This talk aired on Dec. 20, 1979, when Mr. McCartney’s new band, Wings, was enjoying great success, but it is disappointingly conducted by satellite. From London, Paul and Linda talk about taking their children on the road with them, and Mrs. McCartney explains how she got started as a (much-maligned) keyboardist with the band: “Paul just showed me middle C and said, ‘You learn the rest.’ ”

The second interview on disc two is a casual conversation with Beatles drummer and sometime actor Ringo Starr. It aired on Nov. 25, 1981, when Mr. Starr had just turned 40; he shows a wry sense of humor here.

Sweeney Todd (Paramount, $39.99 for two-disc, $29.99 for single-disc) — Tim Burton’s adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim-Hugh Wheeler musical is brutal and bloody but oddly unemotional. It has plenty of gorgeous sights and sounds but precious little soul. As modern movie musicals go, though, this one arrives near the top of the heap. Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter prove they can sing as, respectively, the title barber out for revenge and his long-suffering landlady. The single disc includes just one extra, but the two-disc edition has a plethora, including “Sweeney’s London,” “Grand Guignol: A Theatrical Tradition” and “Sweeney Todd Is Alive: The Real History of the Demon Barber,” along with the usual making-of featurettes.

Becker: The First Season (Paramount/CBS, $39.99) — Most actors count themselves lucky to have one television series hit it big. Even the actors from the legendary “Seinfeld” have famously had trouble making lightning strike twice — at least they did until Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ “The New Adventures of Old Christine” caught on. It took a few years, but Ted Danson followed up the astonishing success of “Cheers” with the quite funny “Becker.” Mr. Danson played the title character, a cantankerous, politically incorrect physician with, yes, a heart. The three-disc set includes all 22 episodes from the first season of the show, which premiered in 1998 and ran until 2004.

Alvin & the Chipmunks: The Chipmunk Adventure — Special Edition and Alvin & the Chipmunks Go to the Movies: Funny, We Shrunk the Adults (Paramount, $16.99 each) — Just in time for the release of the new, partly live-action feature film (see below), Paramount has brought back some of Alvin, Simon and Theodore’s animated adventures from the 1980s. “The Chipmunk Adventure” was the first feature film for the furry trio, which debuted on the small screen in 1958. The 1987 film was directed by Janice Karman, wife of the creator’s son and the voice of Theodore and the three Chipettes, the Chipmunks’ female counterparts. This release also includes a CD featuring 11 tracks, including “Wooly Bully” and “The Girls of Rock ‘n’ Roll.” “Alvin & the Chipmunks Go to the Movies” contains three episodes of the TV cartoon that riff on feature-film comedies.

Kelly Jane Torrance

Alvin and the Chipmunks (Fox, $29.98 single-disc, $34.98 two-disc special edition, $39.98 Blu-ray). The best part of this updating of the late 1950s chipmunk cartoon franchise by Ross Bagdasarian Sr. is the casting of the talented David Cross as a blinged-out and exploiting record-company executive. The other characters and the story are predictable and unengaging: Three musically talented, talking chipmunk orphans enter unsuccessful songwriter David Seville’s (Jason Lee) life. Need we say more? Five minutes into the movie, you know exactly what’s going to happen. The chipmunks and their songwriting daddy are a perfect match in navigating the money-grubbing music industry.

If you like squeaky singing, cute chipmunks and masterful digital shenanigans that enable animated characters and real people to inhabit the screen seamlessly, this one’s for you. If not, it can be a challenge to stomach the way-too-many cheap laughs and predictable story line.

Gabriella Boston

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