New Releases | Tom Russo
Finally, a satisfying journey to the Dark Side
We'll remember ''Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith" (2005) as the movie that saved the prequel trilogy for George Lucas. But that probably says more about our own current entertainment tastes than it does about any Belichick-like talent of the director's to make halftime adjustments in his game plan.
Lucas always intended this pivotal chapter in the corruption of Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) to be dark -- for the first time in the saga's history, PG-13 dark -- and that's what he delivers. The stiff acting and stiffer dialogue that elicited so many winces over the last two films are still here -- and in fact, Lucas probably owes Ewan McGregor a daily muffin basket in perpetuity for so consistently elevating the proceedings as Obi-Wan. Ian McDiarmid's diabolical chancellor-turned-emperor, in particular, is a glaring case of more being less. But freed from the nominal stabs at levity and romance that hurt episodes I and II, this installment rings truer. Lucas and Christensen do make viewers feel for Darth Vader, and, as promised, infuse the character's original trilogy arc with a whole new undercurrent of tragedy.
Extras: Lucas, his producer, and their Industrial Light & Magic effects posse provide feature commentary, although at times you'll wish Lucas had been left alone to express himself. Just as he's making, yes, ''Godfather" analogies over a heavily intercut sequence tracking the Emperor's power grab, the commentary shifts to effects talk about the digital Yoda's acting performance. The highlight of the package's second disc is the feature documentary ''Within a Minute," a step-by-step breakdown of the formidable manpower that went into creating a snippet of Anakin and Obi-Wan's climactic duel, from techies to the caterers and payroll guys. (Fox, $29.98)
Danny Boyle, director of ''Trainspotting" and ''28 Days Later," would hardly seem the likeliest candidate to deliver the family movie of the year. But it's Boyle's flair for characters, visuals, and narrative with an edge that acts as an antidote to anything potentially cloying in the film's premise: 7-year-old Damian (thoroughly charming newcomer Alex Etel), a saints-fixated British boy, is determined to do good with a bag of cash that seemingly drops from the heavens. As he says, hilariously, while defending one wildly generous bit of charity: ''It's not suspicious -- it's unusual!" The film takes a slight turn late, vaguely echoing Boyle's ''Shallow Grave" in its depiction of the strings attached to found money. (Boyle's fans will be intrigued, but it's dicey stuff.) But fret not, hip-yet-conflicted parents -- Boyle, in delivering a revelation, is sure to end with a miracle.
Extras: Commentary by Boyle and writer Frank Cottrell Boyce; production featurettes. (Fox, $27.98)
The French couple introduced mid-divorce at the beginning of writer-director Francois Ozon's film don't ask in so many words, ''Where did we go wrong?" But they're clearly thinking it, and Ozon, who also wrote and directed ''Swimming Pool," gets creative in proceeding backward through his narrative to piece together the answer. Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi and Stephane Freiss, as the lovers who have turned loathsome to each other, bring an alternately melancholy and squirmy realism to the film's portrait. The performances are strong enough that the timeline acrobatics aren't essential -- fans of this sort of exercise might want to check out Hilary Swank's recent ''11:14" for another mental workout -- but there's logic in the conceit.
Extras: A crepe-thin behind-the-scenes featurette; audition footage and deleted scenes. (''5x2," ThinkFilm, $29.99; ''11:14," New Line, $19.97; both available now)
''OFFICE SPACE" (1999)
Mike Judge's workplace comedy has lost some of its commiserative exclusivity, what with two versions of ''The Office" having come along since. Even so, the movie remains so perceptive, it hurts -- and its random gangsta soundtrack flourishes, far from dating the action, make for a classically off-kilter rage against the machine.
Extras: The logical bonus of this ''Special Edition With Flair!" would have been the inclusion of Judge's animated ''Milton" shorts, which provided a springboard for the movie. Instead, snippets are tossed into a disappointing retrospective featurette. (Fox, $19.98)
Music DVD | Steve Morse
Long before Live Aid, a rock rally to behold
George Harrison will forever be cherished for his music in the Beatles, but also for his selfless work in organizing what became ''The Concert for Bangladesh" (1972). Hailed as the first superstar benefit, the 1971 event paved the way for Live Aid and Farm Aid. Harrison's friend Ravi Shankar suggested it after seeing refugees in war-torn, flood-ravaged Bangladesh dying by the thousands, but it was Harrison who united Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Leon Russell, Billy Preston, fellow Beatle Ringo Starr, and others to play two spectacular shows at Madison Square Garden.
This rerelease of the film comes loaded with new information and interviews, along with previously unissued songs such as the acoustic Harrison/Dylan duet on ''If Not for You," a spirited version of blues standard ''Come on in My Kitchen" (sung by Russell), and more Dylan moments in ''Love Minus Zero/No Limit." This new edition should be an essential part of any rock DVD library.
The first of the two discs is devoted to the music. An emotional Shankar brilliantly opens the program with Indian classical music, then Harrison mixes his solo tunes that had just become popular (''My Sweet Lord" is levitating) with Beatles tracks. Clapton is artful throughout, while other highlights include Preston getting joyful on ''That's the Way God Planned It" and Dylan reaching back for ''Blowin' in the Wind."
The second disc is a documentary where we learn that Clapton barely made it to the gig on time and Dylan almost bailed out because he was wary of the intense media coverage. In new interviews, Clapton apologizes for his lateness (''I had been retired for 2 1/2 years at the time"), and there's even a quote from UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan about how rock benefits have since become common but ''in those days it was quite unique and quite daring."
Extras: New looks at the making of the film, a gallery of photo stills, and features on the making of the album and the original artwork. (Apple Corps/Rhino, $29.98; special edition with a 64-page booklet, $49.98; all artists' royalties go to UNICEF.)
Classic DVD | Howard Karren
A sweet ride through '60s couplehood
Watching a movie from the '60s about love, lust, marriage, infidelity, parenthood, codependency -- before the word entered common parlance -- and commitment is both heartbreaking and a bit quaint. The sexual revolution is about to ignite, along with the New Hollywood youth explosion. But ''Two for the Road," a 1967 hit directed by consummate showman Stanley Donen (''Singin' in the Rain," ''Charade") and starring a stunningly attractive Albert Finney and Audrey Hepburn, is too polished and sweet to be unsettling, no matter how hard it tries.
The movie's convoluted chronology, which continually jumps back and forth between various stages of the couple's relationship, is a step in the direction of Harold Pinter's told-in-reverse ''Betrayal," with the same wistful sense of innocence lost but none of the rage. The script by Frederic Raphael, who had just won an Oscar for ''Darling," sets the story in the French countryside and Riviera, where the couple (Finney and Hepburn don't pretend to be American) are always on vacation, with a budget that escalates as they mature. On top of a classy production and sharp dialogue, Donen experiments with groovy jump cuts, freeze frames, and zooms, and often misfires. What doesn't date is the sheer power of the stars' romance and the charm of their performances.
Extras: Original and restored prints are compared in several scenes, flaunting the beautiful new digital transfer. The new commentary track by an elderly Donen is straightforward and spare, with occasional behind-the-scenes insights. (Fox, $14.98)
ALSO THIS WEEK
Jesse Bradford helps anchor this ensemble festival circuit entry, which follows a particularly revealing day in the intersecting lives of New York drama, photography, and journalism types.
Extras: Commentary by Close and director Chris Terrio; Terrio and cast interviews. (
''THE PERFECT MAN" (2005)
Hilary Duff conjures up an imaginary beau for luckless-at-love mom Heather Locklear to avoid yet another post-heartbreak long-distance move. Lizzie McGuire and ''Melrose" Amanda, together at last -- because you demanded it!
Extras: Filmmaker commentary; production featurettes. (Universal, $29.98)
''ALIENS OF THE DEEP" (2005)
Co-director James Cameron's undersea documentary effectively conveys, once again, his fascination with the watery abyss. Includes both the 47-minute theatrical version and a 99-minute extended cut. (Disney, $29.99)
''PARADISE LOST: THE CHILD MURDERS AT ROBIN HOOD HILLS" (1996)
This acclaimed documentary from filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky (''Metallica: Some Kind of Monster") explores the case of a group of Arkansas teens accused of killing three 8-year-old boys -- and implicated in part because of a penchant for heavy metal music.
Extras: Trial footage and updates. (Docurama, $26.95, available now)
Frederic Forrest slips on Dashiell Hammett's shoes and imagines the novelist tangled up in a mystery of his own. Modest entertainment, but with an intriguing pedigree: Wim Wenders directed, and Francis Coppola produced. (Paramount, $14.99)
''ORCHESTRA WIVES" (1942)
Trumpet player George Montgomery elopes with groupie Ann Rutherford, pulling her onto a behind-the-scenes roller coaster. Notable chiefly as a showcase for the Glenn Miller Band.
Extras: Commentary by Rutherford. (Fox, $14.98)
''SEX AND THE CITY": THE COMPLETE SERIES (1998-2004)
The title says it all: Six seasons and 94 episodes are collected on 20 discs.
Extras: A bonus disc of new materials aims mainly for cute: a sex-advice-dispensing video jukebox, a quotables quiz, a locations guide, etc. (But criminy, sister, how many Manolos could you buy with the same $300 that gets you a disc of ''cute"? Well, half a pair, actually, but still.) (HBO, $299.95)
''THE DICK CAVETT SHOW": JOHN & YOKO COLLECTION (1971-72)
The talk show host seems especially gifted at gabbing in this two-part archival interview with Lennon and Ono, who returned months later for a follow-up performance.
Extras: Cavett interview and intros. (Shout! Factory, $24.98)
Capsules are written by Globe correspondent Tom Russo and titles are in stores Tuesday unless otherwise specified.