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VIDEO SHELF

An entertainingly shocking 'Identity'

September 04, 2003|Susan King

Identity

John Cusack, Ray Liotta

Columbia TriStar, $28

James Mangold ("Kate & Leopold") directed this fun thrill ride, a combination film noir and R-rated thriller. On a dark, rainy night, 10 seemingly unrelated travelers find themselves at an isolated motel, and each proceeds to die in a violent, shocking manner. Mangold switches back and forth from the motel madness to the story of a murderous psycho (Pruitt Taylor Vince) who is being transported that same evening to a hearing about his case. Amanda Peet, Rebecca DeMornay and John McGinley also star.

The digital edition features an OK documentary that originally aired on the cable network STARZ, storyboard-to-screen comparisons and deleted scenes with director's commentary. Mangold supplies commentary for the theatrical version of the film, as well as a "branched" version that includes an additional scene and alternative ending.

*

A Man Apart

Vin Diesel

New Line, $28

F. Gary Gray, who directed one of the summer's best films, "The Italian Job," also helmed this pedestrian revenge thriller that was supposed to prove that buffed-up action star Diesel could emote as well as he could draw a gun on the bad guy. But the whole affair is predictable, boring and gratuitously bloody, and Diesel's emotional range runs the gamut from A to B. He plays a DEA agent who seeks to bring down the drug kingpin who murdered his wife.

The DVD is pretty much a turkey, stuffed with only a handful of mundane deleted scenes.

*

The Endurance -- Shackelton's

Legendary Antarctic Expedition

Narrated by Liam Neeson

Columbia Tristar, $30

There have been books, miniseries and documentaries on the ill-fated 1914-16 Antarctic expedition of British explorer Ernest Shackleton and his 27 crewmen, whose ship was crushed in the polar ice floes. But this retelling of the story, which originally aired on PBS' "Nova," is exceptionally well done. It features new footage shot on the same locations Shackleton and his crew traveled, and it includes interviews with relatives of the crew and historical experts, plus archival footage and photos from expedition photographer Frank Hurley. The splendid DVD features a documentary on the making of the film, an interview with Hurley's twin daughters and fascinating commentary from filmmaker George Butler.

*

El Mariachi

Carlos Gallardo

Columbia TriStar, $20

Desperado

Antonio Banderas

Columbia Tristar, $20

With "Once Upon a Time in Mexico," the third installment in Robert Rodriguez's "El Mariachi" saga, due for release Sept. 12, Columbia TriStar is jumping on the hype bandwagon with "special editions" of the first two films. Though these are coming out to cash in on "Once Upon a Time," it's fun to listen to Rodriguez, who does some of the best DVD commentary tracks. Rodriguez tells all his secrets, admits all his mistakes.

With "El Mariachi," he explains how he shot the entire film for just $7,500. No need for cranes or dolly shots in this film. He just borrowed a wheelchair from a local hospital and had a crew member push him around as he shot scenes. The DVD of "El Mariachi" also features an early short film, "Bedhead," his commentary, and a "10-Minute Film School" lesson on how he shot one of the film's more complex action sequences. Besides commentary, "Desperado" includes another short on how he created the opening shootout.

*

Top VHS rentals

1. Bringing Down the House

2. Head of State

3. The Hunted

4. Chicago

5. Cradle 2 the Grave

Top DVD rentals

1. Bringing Down the House

2. Chicago

3. The Hunted

4. Head of State

5. Cradle 2 the Grave

What's coming

Tuesday: "Bulletproof Monk," "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind," "The Core," "Malibu's

Most Wanted," "Stevie," "View From the Top," "Dysfunktional Family," "Russian Ark" and "The Guys"

Sept. 16: "Anger Management" and "Confidence"

Sept. 23: "Daddy Day Care," "Holes," "A Mighty Wind," "The Dancer Upstairs," "The Shape of Things" and "Chateau"

-- Susan King

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