- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Warner Home Video, $35.99 for Blu-ray) — Fans of J.K. Rowling’s iconic boy wizard get a multimedia bonanza Tuesday with multiple new releases of some of his movie blockbusters in the high-definition format.

First, the Blu-ray of the sixth and latest film, “Half Blood-Prince,” arrives with a heavy-duty selection of tech extras. They include a Maximum Movie Mode presenting a picture-in-picture collection of interviews with the cast and other production visuals as the film plays.

More impressive, especially if it works, are the BD-Live broadband connectivity options, starting with a community screening of the film Saturday at 3 p.m. Actor Daniel Radcliffe (who stars as Harry Potter) and director David Yates will watch the film along with Blu-ray owners and take part in an interactive question-and-answer session — all online.

Be forewarned: Viewers must register in advance for the event (limited to 100,000) and also must update their BD-Live-compatible Blu-ray player to the latest firmware to help the process run smoothly.

Next, Ultimate Editions of both “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” ($49.99 each) magically appear in Blu-ray just in time for the gift-giving season.

These comprehensive packages offer extended and theatrical cuts of the films along with Maximum Movie modes in the four-disc sets.

Meanwhile, viewers also get roughly hourlong chunks of the massive documentary “Creating the World of Harry Potter.” This definitive “making of” chronicle is slated to be spread eventually across all of the Ultimate Editions.

Finally, rounding out the extras of the first two Ultimate Editions are a bunch of fun interactives seen in the original DVD releases of the two films. Younger Potter fans will especially appreciate a virtual walk down Diagon Alley, the Forbidden Forest driving challenge and a spell-caster knowledge test.

Joseph Szadkowski

Julie & Julia (Sony, $28.96 for DVD, $39.95 for Blu-ray) — Some of us found it a bit difficult to sit through “Julie & Julia.” Not that the movie was dull — it’s a delightful homage to pleasure, both culinary and conjugal. It’s that its luscious shots of great French dishes — boeuf bourguignon, sole meuniere, tarte chocolat — make you want to get up off the couch and into the kitchen.

The Blu-ray edition of the film, which stars Meryl Streep as famed chef Julia Child and Amy Adams as the contemporary Manhattanite inspired by her, encourages you to do just that. As you watch, you can e-mail one of the featured Child recipes to yourself or a friend — so you can play Julie and whip up a duck a l’orange in your own tiny kitchen. Then you can drool — this time with envy — at Child’s own kitchen. As Washingtonians, and anyone who watched the film, know, it’s installed at the Smithsonian Institution, but the Blu-ray edition includes a tour for those outside the capital. You might want to take some cooking lessons first, though. Those also are available on the Blu-ray, along with interviews with the friends and family of the woman who revolutionized cooking in America.

The DVD edition doesn’t offer quite so much fun for the foodie, but there are extras here, too. Miss Streep’s performance is as awe-inspiring as usual, but she learned the dangers of living the good life in this film. In making-of footage, she talks about how much weight she gained eating all those delicious dishes in take after take. Writer-director Nora Ephron, who counts herself as one of the many Americans whose lives were changed by Child, offers an audio commentary.

Public Enemies (Universal, $29.98 for DVD, $34.98 for two-disc DVD, $36.98 for Blu-ray) — People magazine just named Johnny Depp the sexiest man alive. He certainly looks good in the three-piece suits of the 1930s here, as a romanticized John Dillinger in Michael Mann’s period film about Depression-era bank robbers Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson and Pretty Boy Floyd.

The single-disc edition of the film includes a commentary with director Michael Mann and the featurette “Larger Than Life: Adversaries,” which talks about the portrayals of Dillinger and FBI agent Melvin Purvis, who is played by Christian Bale. The two-disc DVD includes those extras as well as a few more: a making-of featurette, an exploration of the locations, an examination of the guns of the time and a look at the “Last of the Legendary Outlaws.” It also includes a digital copy of the film.

The Blu-ray has all that, plus a couple of other features that will appeal to history buffs. There’s an interactive timeline and a picture-in-picture track that lets you watch the film while learning more about the real history behind it.

Lost: The Complete Fifth Season (Buena Vista, $59.99 for DVD, $79.99 for Blu-ray) — You might have been confused by the ABC series’ fifth season. It followed two timelines, after all, the show’s original contemporary timeline and one that sent survivors back and forth through time until they ended up in 1974. Viewers can try to figure things out now that the last season is out on DVD. For help, creators have provided a collection of extras. There are commentaries for two episodes, making-of featurettes, interviews, bloopers and deleted scenes. There’s even a recap of the entire series — laid out in just five minutes.

Kelly Jane Torrance

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