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by Mark Burger

WALL-E (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): Disney andPixar hit the artistic and financial jackpot (again) with thisbeguiling, beautifully rendered animated fantasy that ranks as aninstant classic and may well claim the Academy Award come February. Setseveral centuries in the future, the story follows the day-to-day“life” of a dutiful robot called “WALL- E” (Waste Allocation LoadLifter — Earth Class), who spends his lonely days picking up andprocessing Pick of the Week the endless mounds of trash that now litter Earth’s landscape. One day, he meets and becomesentranced by a fellow automaton, called EVE, who has been sent to Earthto determine its status. WALL-E follows her back to the gigantic spacestation where the futuristic remnants of humanity reside, waiting forthe word to return to Earth… once it’s been cleaned up, of course. Thusbegins a marvelous adventure that will (and did) dazzle audiences ofall ages, as the future of mankind winds up in the slightly dented,somewhat rusted hands of this every-bot. WALL-E is astory told with a combination of remarkable visual imagery and anequally remarkable depth of feeling, all the more impressive becauseit’s set against the backdrop of a future fraught with ruin. It alsomakes some potent and satirical points about contemporary society, butalways in an entertaining fashion. WALL-E is a winner and WALL-E is wonderful. Without question, this is one of 2007’s best films. Rated G. ***’½

ALSO ON DVD

BEYOND ALL LIMITS (VCIEntertainment): Passions and tempers flare in a Mexican fishing villagein this picturesque 1959 melodrama, based on Vicente Blasco Ibanez’novel Flor de Mayo. Topping the cast is Jack Palance in anexpectedly virile but surprisingly sensitive performance, with goodsupport from Pedro Armendariz, Maria Felix and Paul Stewart. **’½

THE CHEETAH GIRLS: ONE WORLD (WaltDisney Studios Home Entertainment): An “extended music edition” of thelatest Disney Channel adaptation of Deborah Gregory’s series ofbest-selling novels for teens, depicting the misadventures of a sassyyoung musical trio (Adrienne Bailon, Sabrina Bryan and Kiely Williams)on the loose in India,where they’ve been signed to star in a Bollywood musical. (The fourthCheetah Girl, Raven-Symone, sat this installment out.) The DVD retailsfor $29.99 and the Blu-ray for $34.99. Special features abound,including a karaoke sing-along for those who just can’t resist.

THE CHRONOLOGICAL DONALD, VOLUME FOUR (WaltDisney Studios Home Entertainment): A collection of 31 animated Disneyshorts, dating from 1951- ’61, following the misadventures of one ofits most popular characters (and my personal favorite): The irasciblebut lovable “wise-quacker” Donald Duck. The marks the final volume ofDonald’s shorts, and includes “Working for Peanuts,” which was thestudio’s 1954 attempt at 3-D animation. This special- and limited-edition DVD boxed set retails for $32.99.

THE DUCHESS (Paramount Home Entertainment): This elegant historical soap opera, based on Amanda Foreman’s non-fiction best-seller Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, dramatizesthe 18 th -century relationship between the Duke of Devonshire (RalphFiennes) and his younger, willful wife, Lady Georgiana Spencer (KeiraKnightley) — of whom Princess Diana was a descendant. A class act allthe way. Rated PG-13. ***’½

FANNY AND ALEXANDER (TheCriterion Collection): A special edition of Ingmar Bergman’s 1982drama, his final theatrical film (although his subsequent televisionfilms were released abroad to theaters), depicting the life of aSwedish family in the early 20 th century as seen through the titlesiblings, played by Pernilla Allwin and Bertil Guve (each in their onlyfeature film). Widely hailed as one of Bergman’s greatest films — nomean feat, given the breadth of his career — this won Academy Awards asbest foreign language film, and for cinematography (by Sven Nykvist),art direction/set decoration and costume design, with additionalnominations for Bergman’s direction and original screenplay. Thetheatrical-version DVD retails for $29.95, and the specialedition boxedset (including both the Rrated theatrical version and the extended TVversion) retails for $59.95.

THE I INSIDE (DimensionHome Video): Ryan Philippe plays an amnesiac seemingly caught betweentwo realities in this muddled psychological thriller based on MichaelCooney’s stage play. Credit the upscale cast (also including SarahPolley, Stephen Rea, Piper Perabo, Stephen Lang and Peter Egan) forgiving this disjointed effort more than it deserves. Rated R. *’½

KNIFE IN THE WATER (The Criterion Collection): Roman Polanski’s acclaimed 1962 feature debut (Nóz W Wodzie), inwhich a couple (Leon Niemczyk and Jolanta Umecka) is joined on aweekend cruise by a young hitchhiker (Zygmunt Malanowicz) — withunexpected consequences for all. The first Polish film to earn an Oscarnomination as best foreign-language film, this also served as alaunching pad for Polanski. This two-disc special edition ($39.95retail) includes a collection of Polanski’s early short films and aninterview with Polanski and co-screenwriter Jerzy Skolimowski, who’s noslouch himself.

LEGALESE (New Line Home Entertainment): Director Glenn Jordan’start and tangy 1998 legal satire, with James Garner in great form as asavvy show-biz lawyer who assigns a guileless underling (Edward Kerr)to defend a Hollywood sexpot (Gina Gershon) in a high-profile murdercase. Billy Ray’s script sometimes falters, but this is smartly playedby a cast that also includes Mary-Louise Parker and Kathleen Turner (asa tabloid-TV diva). Rated R. ***

“LOST” — THE COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON: THE EXPANDED EXPERIENCE (WaltDisney Studios Home Entertainment): All 14 episodes from the 2008season of the award-winning, (still-running) popular Fox-TV prime-timefantasy series about the survivors of Flight 815, who have spent muchof their time trying to figure out just exactly what’s been going onduring their stint on a remote island. The ensemble cast includes TerryO’Quinn, Evangeline Lilly, Matthew Fox, Elizabeth Mitchell and MichaelEmerson (Emmy nominee for outstanding supporting actor in a dramaseries). Seven Emmy nominations in all, including one for outstandingdrama series, with a win for outstanding sound mixing for a one-hourcomedy or drama series (for the episode “Meet Kevin Johnson”). Thisboxed set retails for $59.99 (DVD) or $96.99 (Blu-ray).

THE MICKEY MOUSE CLUB PRESENTS: ANNETTE (WaltDisney Studios Home Entertainment): Reaching back into its televisionvaults, the Mouse House releases all 19 episodes of the sitcom whichaired in 1957-‘58 as part of “The Mickey Mouse Club,” starring formerMouseketeer Annette Funicello as a country girl who spends the summerwith relatives in the big city. Rarely seen since its original run,this specialedition DVD retails for $32.99.

THE ORIGINAL SOUL MEN: SAM AND DAVE (Hip-O/UMe):A “rockumentary” ($19.99 retail) profiling the illustrious career ofthe legendary, Grammy Award-winning rhythm-and-blues duo Sam Moore andDave Prater Jr., better known as Sam and Dave, whose many hits included“Hold On, I’m Comin’,” “Wrap It Up,” “I Thank You” and, of course,“Soul Man.” This special-edition DVD, which retails for $19.99,includes rare footage and extensive retrospective interviews, includingone with Moore (Prater, sadly, having died in 1988).

PEOPLE I KNOW (MiramaxHome Entertainment): Al Pacino (in fine form) plays a veteran show-bizpublicist attempting to navigate his way through 24 eventful hours in New YorkCity — the city that, like him, never sleeps. Not entirely successfulbut intriguing throughout, with Pacino enjoying star-studded supportfrom the likes of Kim Basinger, Tea Leoni, Ryan O’Neal, Mark Webber,Paulina Porizkova, Richard Schiff, Bill Nunn and Robert Klein(especially good). Robert Redford was an executive producer. Rated R.**’½

POWER RANGERS — JUNGLE FURY (BuenaVista Home Entertainment): For those fans that simply can’t get enough,here’s the latest pair of adventures featuring the Mighty Morphin PowerRangers: “Into the Jungle” and “Way of the Master,” each retailing for$19.99.

ROAD HOUSE (TwentiethCentury Fox Home Entertainment): Not to be confused with the PatrickSwayze vehicle, Jean Negulesco’s tidy 1948 romantic melodrama stars IdaLupino as the quintessential “woman with a past,” torn between a venalnightclub owner (Richard Widmark) and his best friend (Cornel Wilde),who happens to manage the nightclub. As you might guess, trouble isright around the corner. Celeste Holm rounds out the principal quartetin this well-acted film noir that’s a must for buffs. ***

SURRENDER — HELL! (VCI Entertainment): The video debut of a low-budget 1959 World War II flag-waver based adapted from the best-selling book Blackburn’s Headquarters bydirector John Barnwell, depicting the heroic actions of Col. Donald D.Blackburn (credited as technical advisor), who led guerilla attacksagainst the Japanese forces in the Philippineswhile waiting for MacArthur make good on his vow to return (which, ofcourse, he eventually did). Keith Andes portrays Blackburn in stolid,onedimensional fashion. Charles Martin contributed Andes’ stentoriannarration and wrote the lyrics for the film’s theme song, “Fight orDie”… which isn’t nearly as catchy as “The Ballad of the Green Berets”(that says everything). This special-edition DVD also includes suchdocumentaries as John Ford’s This is Korea (1951), Stilwell Road (1945) narrated by Ronald Reagan, and John Huston’s The Battle of San Pietro (1945), which was actually banned by the US Army due to its graphic imagery. **

“TRANSFORMERS: ANIMATED” – SEASON 2 (HasbroInc./Paramount Home Entertainment): All 13 episodes from the popular,animated sci-fi action Cartoon Network series inspired by the Hasbroline of toys. This boxed set retails for $26.99. In addition,Hasbro/Paramount Home Entertainment is releasing “Transformers:Energon” — The Ultimate Collection ($61.99 retail), which includes over50 episodes of the animated 2004 series created in Japan, which acted as the second part of an epic “Transformers” trilogy.

UNDERTAKING BETTY (MiramaxHome Entertainment): Wales goes wacky in this uneven black comedystarring Alfred Molina as a lonely undertaker who fakes the death ofhis lover (Brenda Blethyn), whose husband (Robert Pugh) is cheating onher. Originally titled Plots With a View, this scattershotfarce was given only given spotty distribution here, but is saved by acast that plays it full-tilt, including Lee Evans, Naomi Watts (redlingerie becomes her), Miriam Margolyes (as twins), Jerry Springer (ashimself) and the ever-quirky Christopher Walken as a rival undertaker.The “Star Trek”-themed funeral is a riot. Rated R. **

WHAT LOVE IS (SonyPictures Home Entertainment): Writer/director/co-star Mars Callahan’shighly theatrical comedy/ drama depicts the goings-on at a surpriseparty, in which members of both sexes debate and discuss… well, whatlove is. Reminiscent of David Mamet at times, the film’s ensemble cast— including CubaGooding Jr., Matthew Lillard, Sean Astin, Gina Gershon, Anne Heche,Shiri Appleby and Tamala Jones — plays on all cylinders.   Rated R. **’½

Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2009, Mark Burger.

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