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THE EXTRAS FILE

The march of the documentaries

November 29, 2005|Susan King | Times Staff Writer

Documentaries come in every shape and size -- political, historical, nature and even comedic. Three documentaries making their DVD debuts today illustrate that diversity.

The exquisite "March of the Penguins" (Warner, $29) was a surprise box office hit this summer, grossing $77.3 million. French filmmaker Luc Jacquet and his crew spent a year under extreme weather conditions in Antarctica to chronicle the incredible journey of the emperor penguins.

Every year, colonies of these charismatic flightless birds travel single file up to 70 miles to a breeding ground far inland to mate and become protective parents of a single chick.

Morgan Freeman supplies the narration.

The DVD includes the fascinating behind-the-scenes documentary "Of Penguins and Men," an excerpt from the National Geographic series "Crittercam," in which a penguin is outfitted with a camera, and the vintage cartoon "8 Ball Bunny," in which Bugs encounters a lost penguin.

Not every acclaimed documentary becomes a box office smash. Despite good reviews, "Murderball" (ThinkFilm, $30) failed to find an audience last summer, taking in just $1.5 million. Of course, there are no adorable penguins in this film, but tough-talking, in-your-face quadriplegics who play Murderball -- full-contact rugby in specially fabricated wheelchairs.

The filmmakers, Henry Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro, spent four years with the American team as they prepared to compete in the Paralympic Games in Athens.

The DVD includes the "Larry King Live" interview with several of the players profiled in the film, including Mark Zupan and Scott Hogsett, footage of the New York premiere, interviews with the cast, deleted scenes such as a food fight between the players, an interview with Joe Soares, the outspoken former American player who became the coach for the Canadian team, filmmaker commentary and player commentary with Zupan, Hogsett and others. The only downside to the disc is a "Jackass" special in which Johnny Knoxville and Steve-O get down and dirty and drunk with the players.

Rounding out the trio of documentaries is Kevin Brownlow and David Gill's Emmy Award-winning 1983 documentary "Unknown Chaplin: The Master at Work" (A&E, $25). Using footage from Chaplin's private collection and interviews with those who knew and worked with him, Brownlow and Gill vividly illustrate Chaplin's perfection developing gags and ideas for his classic silent comedies. The third part of the documentary, "Hidden Treasures," offers outtakes, abandoned films and the hilarious seven-minute original opening for his 1931 classic, "City Lights." James Mason supplies the narration.

Extras include "The Story Behind Unknown Chaplin," as well as the shorts "The Making of 'The Count' " and "Chaplin Meets Harry Lauder."

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Also new this week:

"Mr. & Mrs. Smith" (Fox, $30): The romantic action-thriller that gave the world "Brangelina." Though director Doug Liman's film is uneven, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have old-time movie star chemistry as a married couple -- neither of whom is aware that the other is an assassin.

Extras include a "Making a Scene" featurette that aired on Fox Movie Channel, deleted scenes with more of costar Vince Vaughn's comic rants and three audio commentaries, including one with Liman ("The Bourne Identity") and writer Simon Kinberg.

"Sky High" (Disney, $30): Family friendly action-comedy starring Kurt Russell and Kelly Preston about a high school for superheroes and sidekicks. The extras on the DVD include ho-hum behind-the-scenes production featurettes, the alternate opening that thankfully was jettisoned, an unfunny blooper reel and a music video.

"Project Runway -- The First Complete Season": (Miramax, $40): Supermodel Heidi Klum hosts this addictive reality competition series that aired on Bravo, which offered 12 budding designers the chance to compete for their own line. The series was nominated for an Emmy but lost to "The Amazing Race."

The set includes "Wear Are They Now?," a featurette that catches up with several of the designers, deleted scenes and a gallery of several of the designers' outfits.

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What's coming:

Dec. 6: "Fantastic Four," "Dukes of Hazzard," "Cinderella Man"

Dec. 13: "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," "The Baxter"

Dec. 20: "The Exorcism of Emily Rose," "Four Brothers," "Serenity"

Dec. 26: "Dark Water," "Grizzly Man," "Undiscovered," "2046"

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