- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 15, 2009

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (20th Century Fox, $29.99 for DVD, $34.98 for two-disc DVD, $39.99 for Blu-ray) — Fox came up with an ingenious way to make more money off its “X-Men” property — spin off not just another film, but another franchise. “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” the eighth-best-grossing film of the year so far, tells how James Howlett became Wolverine (played by Hugh Jackman). Executives already have ordered a sequel — and word is that Ryan Reynolds’ character Wade Wilson (aka Deadpool) will be the next to get an origins film.

The single disc includes just a making-of featurette. The two-disc DVD includes that and commentaries by the producers and director Gavin Hood, deleted scenes, a digital copy of the film, and the featurette “The Roots of Wolverine: A Conversation With X-Men Creators Stan Lee and Len Wein.” The Blu-ray has all those extras and more, including a look at the helicopter chase sequence, a trivia track and 10 character chronicles.

Fame (Warner, $20.98) and Fame: The Complete Seasons 1 & 2 (MGM, $39.98) — You might question — like most critics — the justification for remaking the 1980 film “Fame.” At least the upcoming film, in theaters Sept. 25, has brought the movie, and the television series it spawned, back into print. “Fame” the film followed a group of talented and ambitious students — the best known of the actors is Irene Cara, who made the theme song a hit — studying at the New York High School of Performing Arts. The television series based on the film ran from 1982 to 1987; the first two seasons are here on seven discs.

Kelly Jane Torrance

Homicide ($39.99, Criterion Collection) — In recent weeks, some have compared David Mamet’s 1991 feature “Homicide” to Quentin Tarantino’s new picture “Inglourious Basterds.” On the surface, that comparison may seem apt; after all, these are two pictures that are very concerned with the nature of Jewish resistance against anti-Semitism and the violence done to the chosen people over the years.

A better comparison, however, might be with another film concerning racial strife in the inner city that came out a couple of years before “Homicide”: Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing.” Though viewing the issue through diametrically opposed prisms — Mr. Lee through the eyes of a disaffected black youth, Mr. Mamet through the eyes of a disaffected Jewish cop — both films tackle the difficulty of maintaining one’s identity in the face of rejection, disparagement and self-doubt that that identity inspires.

Bobby Gold (Joe Mantegna) is a tough cop tasked with taking down a cop-killing drug dealer when the case of a gunned-down elderly Jewish shopkeeper intrudes into his world. Much to Gold’s chagrin, the shopkeeper’s family — convinced something more sinister than a corner-store stickup was in the offing — uses their influence to keep him on the case. Digging deeper, Gold stumbles onto a group of Zionists operating in the heart of the city; intrigued by their actions and shamed by his earlier reluctance to pursue the case, Gold wants in on their activities — but at what cost to his self-perception as a policeman and a Jew?

“Homicide” is at its best when it focuses on the cop-house antics acted out by a host of Mamet regulars. In addition to Mr. Mantegna, William H. Macy, Steven Goldstein, J.J. Johnston, Jack Wallace and Ricky Jay all have parts (and discuss their relationship to Mr. Mamet in one of the extra features). The disc also features a commentary with Mr. Mamet and Mr. Macy and an essay from Stuart Klawans that truly gets to the heart of Mr. Mamet’s body of work.

Hero, The Legend of Drunken Master, Iron Monkey, Zatoichi ($39.99-$44.99, Blu Ray, Miramax) — Miramax has been at the forefront of bringing kung-fu features to the big screen, and now it’s doing the same with Blu-ray. Quentin Tarantino lent his name to both “Hero” and “Iron Monkey”; both films were advertised as “presented by” the auteur during their initial theatrical runs, and both of their home releases feature interviews with him as well.

Those are the only extra features of note on these discs, however, which are disappointingly bare-boned despite the hefty price tag. Fans of the genre will certainly enjoy the superior picture quality offered by the high-definition upgrade, but those looking for a more immersive experience will likely be disappointed. Those forced to choose just one of these movies would be well-advised to pick up “Zatoichi,” the story of a blind swordsman who fights to free a town from its despotic ruler; the plot is nothing special, but the swordplay is something to behold.

Sonny Bunch

Bedknobs and Broomsticks: Enchanted Musical Edition (Disney, $29.99) — This Disney classic from 1971 blends song-and-dance numbers with animation and live action and has a 1940s story line that pits invading Nazis against a good British witch, Miss Price (Angela Lansbury), and her charges, three adorable children.

Not surprisingly, after 139 minutes of wondrous travels on a magical bed, slapstick (such as when Miss Lansbury first learns how to fly her witch’s broom) and even some life lessons (importance of love and patience), the Brits — spearheaded by Miss Price and a magician friend (David Tomlinson) — save the day.

The old but innocent story line and dated special effects probably won’t work for today’s youngsters; it’s better suited to fill their parents’ nostalgic needs.

The release also includes several bonus features, such as a segment on how special effects were created almost four decades ago compared to today’s CGI techniques.

Gabriella Boston

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