New on DVD this week
AP Movie Writer
The big old robots that were all the rage of the 1980s return to Earth in a live-action spectacle that became one of the year’s top hits.
With a human cast led by Shia LaBeouf, Jon Voight, Tyrese Gibson, Anthony Anderson and John Turturro, the movie centers on a battle of good vs. evil waged by two bands of shape-shifting machines, the big-hearted Autobots and the dastardly Decepticons, who wreak havoc as they tramp about our puny world.
The movie comes in a single-disc DVD, a two-disc DVD set and a high-definition HD DVD version.
Extras are highlighted by a huge batch of behind-the-scenes featurettes spelling out the backstory of the robots and the master power source they fight over, offering details on the Autobots’ human allies and breaking down the moviemaking that went into the desert assault at the start of the movie. Director Michael Bay provides commentary.
Theater audiences weren’t all that interested in the double-feature “Grindhouse,” crafted by pals Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino as a tribute to the deranged B-movies they both loved as kids.
Following the September DVD release of Tarantino’s portion, “Death Proof,” comes Rodriguez’s half of the “Grindhouse” experiment, the bloody zombie fest “Planet Terror.”
The cast is led by Freddy Rodriguez, Marley Shelton, Bruce Willis, Michael Biehn and Rose McGowan as the flick’s poster girl, an exotic dancer who uses her new prosthetic leg ” a machine gun ” to mow down the flesh-munching mutants. The two-disc set has an unrated extended cut, with commentary from Rodriguez, along with featurettes on the stunts, characters and casting.
Angelina Jolie and romantic companion Brad Pitt, a producer on the film, found a passion project with this portrait of radio journalist Mariane Pearl, the wife of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
Jolie delivers a tremendous, self-effacing performance as her character rallies a diverse circle of loved ones and new friends to try to save Daniel Pearl, who was abducted by terrorists in Pakistan and later beheaded.
The DVD and high-definition HD DVD release include a making-of featurette, a segment on the Committee to Protect Journalists and a public-service announcement featuring CNN reporter Christiane Amanpour for the Daniel Pearl Foundation, a nonprofit group aimed at countering religious and ethnic hatred and promoting objective journalism.
Eighty years has flown by since Al Jolson told audiences, “You ain’t heard nothing yet,” ushering in the age of talking pictures.
The 1927 film gets grand DVD treatment in a three-disc set featuring restored images and sound. Jolson plays a son at odds with his dad because he chooses the life of a pop singer rather than enter the family trade as a Jewish cantor.
The set is augmented by hours of vintage short films from the 1920s and ’30s, including several featuring Jolson, plus a Tex Avery cartoon, mini dramas and musical performances. Among other extras are a new documentary on the transition from the silent era to sound pictures, commentary from film historians and Jolson’s 1947 radio version of “The Jazz Singer.”
It’s not just modern stars and filmmakers who climb onto the soapbox. Hollywood has always worn its political and social heart on its sleeve.
This magnificent four-disc set follows two previous collections of vintage cinema from the National Film Preservation Foundation, which gathers another treasure trove of rarities from the early years of moviemaking.
The four-disc set packs 48 films ranging from a snippet of less than a minute to such feature-length sagas as Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Godless Girl,” a youth romance that examines atheism, Christianity and the ills of reform schools. Ranging from dark drama to satire, the films take hard looks at issues still at the forefront today, including racism, labor unions, abortion, women’s rights, immigration, infectious disease, alcohol, patriotism during wartime and the adjustments disabled veterans must make after returning home.
The films are accompanied by a 200-page book, commentary from 20 cinema experts and newly composed music. For cinema fans, there may be no better holiday gift than this storehouse of forgotten gems.
Matthew Perry, Bradley Whitford and Amanda Peet lead the cast of the short-lived series from “The West Wing” creator Aaron Sorkin. The show takes a behind-the-scenes look at a late-night sketch comedy series. The six-disc set has all 22 episodes, with commentary from Sorkin on the pilot.
Patricia Arquette returns as the crime-solving clairvoyant who helps police crack mysterious cases. Year three’s 21 episodes come in a six-disc set, accompanied by commentary and a handful of featurettes.
The 1970s flashback continues with Topher Grace, Ashton Kutcher and their sit-com co-stars. A four-disc set has year seven’s 25 episodes, plus commentary and behind-the-scenes segments.
Roseanne Barr, John Goodman and their blue-collar family bid farewell in the sit-com’s final season. The last 24 episodes are packed in a four-disc set, which includes new interviews with Barr.
Raymond Burr is back as the police chief in a wheelchair in the cop drama that aired in the 1960s and ’70s. The second year’s 26 episodes are contained in a seven-disc collection.
Richard Gere stars as Clifford Irving, who pulled off one of the greatest literary fibs ever, convincing the publishing world his fake Howard Hughes biography was based on tell-all interviews with the reclusive billionaire. The disc has deleted scenes with commentary by director Lasse Halstrom, who also offers commentary for the full film.
Hilary Swank goes biblical in this thriller about a debunker of supernatural phenomena who encounters plagues of locusts, rivers of blood and other Old Testament manifestations in rural Louisiana. The movie comes in standard DVD or Blu-ray formats and an HD DVD-standard DVD combination disc.
A teen (Justin Chatwin) finds himself between worlds, invisible to all but a single classmate, a girl who sets out to help him solve his own murder. The DVD and Blu-ray releases include deleted scenes and commentary with director David S. Goyer and the screenwriters.