- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Knowing (Summit, $26.99 for DVD, $34.99 for Blu-ray) — When one talks about the critical consensus on a film — often citing the movie’s rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes — one can miss an important part of the picture. Take “Knowing,” for instance. The thriller stars Nicolas Cage as a college professor surprised by the accuracy of predictions in a time capsule buried at his son’s elementary school. He then wonders if the tragedies it lists for the future also will come true. The movie garnered just 32 percent on RT, which makes it sound like a pretty dismal piece of work. Yet the country’s best-known critic gave it four stars out of four. In the first line of his review, Roger Ebert wrote, “‘Knowing’ is among the best science-fiction films I’ve seen — frightening, suspenseful, intelligent and, when it needs to be, rather awesome.” That single review likely helped “Knowing’s” box office reach $80 million domestically — and probably drove a few critics to see the film again, wondering what they had missed.

The extras on both the DVD and Blu-ray versions of the film are a commentary with director Alex Proyas and two behind-the-scenes featurettes, “Visions of the Apocalypse” and “The Making of a Futuristic Thriller.”

The Unborn (Universal, $29.98 for DVD, $39.98 for Blu-ray) — It used to be you often could tell a good horror flick from a bad one by looking at the cast. Not anymore. Actors no longer seem to see any stigma in appearing in a low-rent genre flick. “The Unborn” is a perfect case in point. Among virtual unknowns Odette Yustman and Meagan Good on the cast list is Gary Oldman, the more-than-talented actor who has played Beethoven, Lee Harvey Oswald and Sid Vicious. I hope he picked up a good paycheck: “The Unborn” gets just 12 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. (Roger Ebert didn’t review this one, so producers got no help there.)

Critics certainly were scared by the gruesome film — not so much by its chills, though, as what they saw as a preposterous plot, conventionally treated. Mr. Oldman’s character performs an exorcism on a young woman haunted by nightmares while she sleeps and a demonic ghost while she’s awake.

Both the DVD and Blu-ray include two versions of the film, the theatrical release and an unrated cut “too terrifying for theaters,” as well as deleted scenes. The Blu-ray also gives you access to the BD-Live Center through your Internet-connected player, allowing you to pick scenes from the film to create a video montage. Perhaps you could trim this down into a decent film.

Young & Handsome: A Night With Jeff Garlin (Shout! Factory, $14.99) — Larry David’s relationship with his agent, played by Jeff Garlin, is one of the best things about HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” Mr. Garlin is a talented comedian himself, and he executive produces the show along with Mr. David and a few others. His talents are on full display in “Young & Handsome: A Night With Jeff Garlin,” an hourlong stand-up special that will air on Comedy Central this fall. Mr. Garlin performed to a sold-out hometown crowd at the Second City Theatre in Chicago. Bonus features on the disc are deleted scenes and an interview with Mr. Garlin conducted by fellow comic Bob Odenkirk.

Peanuts 1960s Collection (Warner, $29.98) — The two best Peanuts television specials ever made aired in the 1960s — “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” You can get both those classic shows, along with four other adorable specials, all remastered, in this two-disc set. “He’s Your Dog, Charlie Brown” and “It Was a Short Summer, Charlie Brown” are making their way onto DVD for the first time, while “Charlie Brown’s All-Stars” and “You’re in Love, Charlie Brown” previously were released separately. These are the first six specials; they aired between 1965 and 1969. The set also includes a short documentary, “The Maestro of Menlo Park — Profiling Composer Vince Guaraldi,” which takes a look at the jazz musician who created Peanuts’ very memorable theme music.

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