DVD guide

A guide to current releases and extra features.


8 Mile (Rated R)

(Universal Studios, $26.98): Eminem's life inspired "8 Mile," the actual border line dividing blacks and whites in the ghetto of Detroit. The DVD extras take viewers into the making of the film with behind-the scenes footage and an interview with rap superstar Eminem. The highlight is the verbal battle among 100 local rappers competing for a scene in the movie with Eminem. From rappers Cricket to Dapper Dan, it's obvious, in the words of director Curtis Hanson, that making it in the music biz in Detroit is still very much alive. - Lisa Leigh Connors

Far from Heaven (Rated PG-13)

(Universal Studios Home Video, $26.99): This Oscar-nominated film pays tribute to the Douglas Sirk melodramas of the 1950s, and peers under the surface of a picture-perfect family. The Whitakers seem to have it all, until Cathy (Julianne Moore in a brilliant performance) finds out her husband (Dennis Quaid) is struggling with repressed homosexuality. She confides in her kindly black gardener, sparking whispering among the neighbors. Features include a segment on how a scene is made, interesting interviews with Moore, Quaid, and director Todd Haynes, and a making-of feature that feels as superficial as the Whitakers' daily interactions. - Stephanie Cook Broadhurst

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rated PG)

(Warner Home Video, $29.95): Harry Potter and his wand-waving pals return to Hogwarts for a second year of mischief and magic. The movie stays true to J.K. Rowling's book and vividly transports viewers into the world of flue powder and floating objects. There are enough bonus features on the two-disc set to keep 11-year-old minds occupied for weeks. Those who thought the movie ended too soon can flip through 19 additional or extended scenes. One highlight is the virtual tour of Dumbledore's office and the stores lining Diagon Alley. Test your spellcaster knowledge, escape from the Forbidden Forest, or play the Chamber Challenge. There are also short, lively interviews with most of the actors, as well as with Rowling and screenwriter Steve Kloves. - S.C.B.

Tuck Everlasting (Rated PG)

(Walt Disney Pictures, $29.99): This enchanting movie, based on the beloved children's novel, has some intriguing extra features. Especially useful to parents is a playing mode that pairs the film with comments about how to explore the lessons each of the characters learns. Also included is commentary from the director, writer, and cast. - Gloria Goodale

Spirited Away (Rated PG)

(Disney Home Video, $29.99): This year's winner for Best Animated Feature is a gorgeous piece of animation by Japanese master Hayao Miyazaki. A girl must find a way to free herself and her parents from the spirit world in a fable that evokes "Alice in Wonderland," "The Neverending Story," and the Brothers Grimm, while remaining utterly original. Extras include the ability to toggle between the storyboards and the finished film, interviews with the US voice cast, and a Japanese documentary that chronicles the making of the film. (Skip the intro by Pixar's John Lasseter.) Animé fans will want the Miyazaki three-pack, which also includes "Kiki's Delivery Service," a gentle tale about a teenage witch setting off on her own, and "Castle in the Sky." - Yvonne Zipp

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (Rated PG)

(Disney Home Video, $29.99): This groundbreaking film combining animation and live action won four Oscars in 1988, one of them for Special Achievement in Animation Direction. The film holds up remarkably well, considering how much technology has progressed in the past 15 years. The two-disc set is full of extras, some more interesting than others. The sequence with rubber dummies showing how the scenes were created is a reminder that filmmakers used to work very hard to achieve results that are now done with a click of a mouse. The kid commentary is pretty dumb, but the behind-the-scenes material is lots of fun, as is a deleted scene in which Bob Hoskins has to wash a cartoon pig's head off his neck. - G.G.

The Wild Thornberrys Movie (Rated PG)

(Paramount, $29.99): Lots of TV cartoons have tried to capitalize on the interest in family films, but most full-length efforts range from ho-hum to forgettable. The "Wild Thornberrys," about a girl who can talk to animals and her nature-documentarian family, is an exception. This movie is top-notch - from the excellent vocal cast (including three Oscar winners) to the story line. Unfortunately, similar care wasn't taken with the DVD extras, which include only the video for Paul Simon's Oscar-nominated "Father and Daughter." - Y.Z.

Bob Hope Tribute Collection

(Universal Home Video, each disc $14.98): In honor of Bob Hope's 100th birthday, Universal has released 12 discs showcasing the funnyman's movies and his work entertaining the troops. Highlights include his "Road" movies with Bing Crosby, "The Ghost Breakers," in which Hope helps Paulette Goddard deal with her haunted Cuban castle, and "The Paleface," where he plays a cowardly dentist who marries Calamity Jane (Jane Russell). The archival material in the extras will be of interest to both Hope's fans and war buffs, but the two documentaries on the entertainer aren't terribly enlightening. - Y.Z.

West Side Story: Special Edition

(MGM Home Entertainment, $39.98): Winner of 10 Academy Awards, including best picture of 1961, this gem really needs nothing more than this excellent digital release. What a pleasure to see this masterwork in sharp, clear images that still hold up after four decades. The DVD format allows the extra pleasure of re-viewing the Stephen Sondheim-Leonard Bernstein musical numbers at your leisure. The retrospective documentary "West Side Memories," is certainly worth your time, with comments from Sondheim and director Robert Wise, as is the companion book containing the screenplay and additional photos. - G.G.

Three Colors Trilogy - Blue/White/Red (Rated R)

(Buena Vista Home Video, $39.99): The masterly trilogy - which explores the French ideals of liberté, égalité, and fraternité - and its DVD extras are a treat for anyone interested in movies. Viewers will get inside the head of legendary director Krzysztof Kieslowski with a special feature called "cinema lessons," in which the late director explains his process of infusing meaning into individual scenes. The DVD extras are such a marvel of detail, they point out things that an ordinary viewer wouldn't catch. Each disc also feature interviews with stars Irène Jacob, Juliete Binoche, and Julie Delpy. - L.L.C.

Cinema Paradiso: The New Version (Rated R)

(Miramax, $29.99): Winner of the Oscar for Best Foreign Language film, this charming Italian story is a combination coming-of-age drama and celebration of the art of film. It is back in a package that combines both the original 1990 theatrical version and a new cut with 51 minutes of additional footage that provides important new details about the love of the young man's life. For those who worry that 174 minutes is too long, rest assured that the final montage of great screen kisses, (assembled by the town priest whose job it was to snip out the kisses from films) is worth waiting for. - G.G.

Rabbit Proof Fence (Rated PG)

(Miramax, $29.99): This historical drama about three part-Aborigine girls who travel across Australia in 1931 to find their families won critical acclaim when it came out last year. The film follows the trial of these half-castes after they are kidnapped in accordance with a government policy of removing half-Aboriginal from their families to preserve the purity of the Aboriginal race. It is heart-rending but rewarding to watch as the girls face the trials of their thousand mile-plus journey. The included documentary follows the director as he casts non-actors in featured roles. The original score by Peter Gabriel was nominated for a Golden Globe. - G.G.

I Am Trying To Break Your Heart

(Plexifilm, $29.95): There's a disconcerting scene in this documentary about country-rock band Wilco in which unkempt singer Jeff Tweedy signs a record contract. It's the size of a Michener novel, but Tweedy doesn't bother to read any of it before he inks the deal. And this is after Wilco struggled for nearly a year to wrest an unreleased album from their previous label. One yearns for more telling episodes like it. But director Sam Jones didn't expect to tell the story of Wilco's corporate struggle - let alone the ousting of a band member - when he set out to film the recording of an album. Thankfully, gaps in the tale due to a low budget and lack of access are filled in by a bonhomie-filled commentary track and a handsome diary booklet. Jones's black-and-white camerawork is superb and enriches the dozens of musical extras. - Stephen Humphries

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