DVD reviews


Terminator 2: Extreme Edition (R)

(Artisan Entertainment, $29.98): Audiences have gotten so used to computer-generated effects in movies, it's hard to remember when they really took over the big-budget feature film. This is the DVD to remind you. "Terminator 2" is the movie that started it all. And in case you don't believe that, Artisan has loaded this release, its third DVD version of "T2," with the interviews to prove it. Director Peter Jackson, "Lord of the Rings" maestro, goes on and on about how "T2" made him realize computer-generated effects were the future of the industry. This director's cut, with eight additional scenes, is lots of fun to watch, with Arnold doing his own stunts. By Gloria Goodale

About Schmidt (R)

(New Line Home Entertainment, $27.98): It was about time that Jack Nicholson reminded people why he's a genuine star. His performance as a depressed, widowed insurance salesman from Omaha is, well, about as good as it gets. Yes, the film is weird and sad, but it is also bittersweet and joyful in unexpected ways, such as the affecting relationship Schmidt strikes up with a little boy he "adopts" from Africa. It is both goofy and touching, and Nicholson doesn't miss a beat. The DVD offers nearly 20 extra minutes of his slide into post-marital depression, but honestly the film itself is what makes this DVD worth owning. - G.G.

Frida (R)

(Miramax, $29.99): This biopic about the volatile life of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo chronicles her struggles as a passionate artist crippled from a bus accident and her trials as the wife of womanizing muralist Diego Rivera. The film shows how Kahlo translated her physical and emotional pain onto canvas. The two-disc DVD is saturated with extras, including a lengthy but unenlightening interview with Salma Hayek (Frida) and several commentaries by director Julie Taymor. The best one is her interview with Bill Moyers. Composer Elliot Goldenthal also discusses how he chose the score, which includes tango music and the glass harmonica. By Stephanie Cook Broadhurst

Gangs of New York (R)

(Miramax, $29.99): While at a friend's house 32 years ago, Martin Scorsese came across a book called "Gangs of New York." It took him until 2002 to finally get his vision onto the screen. Nominated for 10 Academy Awards, "Gangs of New York" tells the story of Irish immigrants who came to New York in the 1800s and the fighting and corruption that followed in lower Manhattan's Five Points section. The two-disc set is loaded with extra features, including a Discovery Special on the history of New York and interviews with Scorsese and star Leonardo DiCaprio. Contains many graphic, violent scenes. By Lisa Leigh Connors

The Hours (PG-13)

(Paramount Home Video, $29.99): Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Michael Cunningham, this is a story of how three women living in different eras - author Virginia Woolf, a 1950s housewife, and a modern-day New York socialite - are linked by Woolf's "Mrs. Dalloway." Extras include three worthwhile featurettes. One has interviews with Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, and Meryl Streep, plus commentary from director Stephen Daldry on how each actress approached her work. Another compelling featurette offers views from historians about Woolf's life, including theories on why she suffered from depression. - S.C.B.

The Pianist (R)

(Universal Studios, $26.98): This harrowing masterwork by the exiled Roman Polanski won Oscars for both the director and the lead, Adrien Brody, who plays musician Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Polish pianist who managed to survive the Holocaust. If you missed it in the theaters, this DVD is a good, intimate followup - the story is not really about history, it's about survival in the face of history's worst moments. Brody is a study in small gestures, and the best scenes, such as the "concert" he plays for a Nazi officer, are what make this film so remarkable. The DVD also features an interesting documentary with rare archival Nazi footage, and comments from Polanski, himself a Holocaust survivor. - G.G.

Talk to Her (R)

(Columbia Tri-Star, $26.95): This visually poetic and emotionally layered story by Pedro Almodóvar is about how two very different men, a nurse and a writer, deal with two women they love who are in comas. The DVD is slim on bonus features, but the making-of commentary by Almódovar is worth listening to because he describes his approach and the symbolism behind each scene. He mentions that actress Leonor Watling, who played a coma patient, had to practice yoga for four months to learn the art of staying still. ("You can't just lie in bed," Almódovar says.) The film contains some sexually explicit scenes. - S.C.B

Wings of Desire (PG-13)

(MGM, $24.98): In the mid-'80s, director Wim Wenders approached actor Otto Sander with a two-sentence letter: "Play [one of] two angels in the sky over a building. What do you think about it?" The actor gladly accepted, even though there was no script or dialogue written yet. The art-house hit won for Best Director at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival and became the darling of movie critics all over the globe. While I found it slow-moving, ambiguous, and somewhat pointless, I enjoyed the supplemental features, including "The Angels Among Us" documentary. In it, director Wenders ("Buena Vista Social Club") explains why he made the film and what it meant to him. - L.L.C.

The Chaplin Collection

(Warner Home Video, $119.95): The first four titles in this 10-title series, "The Gold Rush," "The Great Dictator," "Limelight," and "Modern Times," are films that anyone who values moving pictures simply ought to own. "Modern Times" is on the American Film Institute's lists for both the Top 100 movies of the past century as well as the top comedy. Every film offers classic moments from Chaplin's work - from the dancing dinner rolls in "The Gold Rush" to Chaplin's wildly goofy dance in "The Great Dictator." These are stories from another time, with long, unbroken camera sequences, filled with the sincerity and simplicity of classic tales. All four DVDs offer a wide variety of interesting extras, such as home movies of Chaplin and his many kids, original notes from the director, and several documentaries about Chaplin and his place in film history. - G.G.

Giant (PG)

(Warner Home Video, $26.99): It took three years and countless edits for director George Stevens to produce his commentary on big money, racial bigotry, and feminism in the rough-and-tumble lifestyle of Lone Star high society. With the exception of Rock Hudson, who does little more than drag his character along in big spurs and worn ideals, the acting on this two-disc special edition is sensational, as Eizabeth Taylor and James Dean effortlessly take on the roles of restless dreamers. Vintage documentaries, newsreels, and commentary with George Stevens Jr. and residents of Marfa, Texas, where the filming took place, only add to the glittery-yet-gritty appeal. By Elizabeth Armstrong

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