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`X-Men' stand up for new director

Brett Ratner provides sparkling commentary, including what it was like to take over the third in the franchise.

October 03, 2006|Susan King | Times Staff Writer

After "X-Men" director Bryan Singer switched allegiance to another superhero, Brett Ratner took the reins of "X-Men: The Last Stand" (Fox, $30), the third adventure based on the Marvel Comics series, in which the mutant community is in an uproar when a scientist discovers a "cure." Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Anna Paquin, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen return, and Kelsey Grammer climbs aboard as the furry blue Beast.

Extras include several deleted scenes with three alternate endings, including one in which the Beast becomes a teacher at the mutant school. Ratner and screenwriters Simon Kinberg and Zak Penn supply an entertaining commentary track -- the writers, who are comic-book geeks, had to teach Ratner about all things "X-Men."

No one behaves heroically in Jason Reitman's sharp satire "Thank You for Smoking" (Fox, $30), but star Aaron Eckhart transforms his character, a savvy spinmeister for the tobacco industry, into a warmblooded, sympathetic character. The comedy, based on the book by Christopher Buckley, also stars Robert Duvall, Maria Bello, David Koechner and a pre-Tom Cruise Katie Holmes.

Included is a typical "making-of" documentary, a featurette on the birth of spin, solo commentary with Reitman and another track with Reitman, Eckhart and former "Saturday Night Live" regular Koechner.

Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the New York Cosmos soccer team became heroes and champions thanks to such legendary players as Pele. The documentary "Once in a Lifetime" (Miramax, $30) looks back at the period when soccer players became superstars in the U.S. and their matches drew crowds almost as large as baseball and football. Extras include stories about Pele, excerpts from his last game and a deleted scene.


Also new

"Humphrey Bogart -- The Signature Collection, Vol. 2" (Warner, $50): The highlight of this set is the three-disc "The Maltese Falcon," which features the 1941 classic that put Bogie on the map as the acerbic San Francisco shamus Sam Spade and marked the directorial debut of John Huston. As a new digital transfer from restored elements, the movie looks great.

Extras include commentary from Bogart biographer Eric Lax, the fascinating new documentary "The Maltese Falcon: One Magnificent Bird," trailers of Bogart films, vintage shorts, three radio adaptations of "The Maltese Falcon" and two films based on Dashiell Hammett's book: 1931's risque "The Maltese Falcon," starring Ricardo Cortez, and the dreadful 1936 "Satan Met a Lady," which changes the names of characters and turns the film noir into a silly comedy. Warren William and Bette Davis star. Rounding out the collection are basically second-tier Bogie titles: 1942's "Across the Pacific" and "All Through the Night," 1943's "Action in the North Atlantic" and 1944's "Passage to Marseille."

"The Little Mermaid: Platinum Edition" (Disney, $30): A lovely two-disc set of the 1989 classic that heralded the renaissance in animated films. The film has been digitally gussied up and features astute commentary with co-directors John Musker and Ron Clements and Oscar-winning composer Howard Ashman; previously unseen deleted scenes; a lengthy making-of documentary and one on author Hans Christian Andersen, who wrote the story of "The Little Mermaid."

"Edmond" (First Independent, $28): William H. Macy is a member of David Mamet's stock company of actors. And in this grisly adaptation of Mamet's short play, Macy's Edmond is a married businessman who makes a colossal mistake when he visits a fortuneteller. Extras include a production diary, compelling commentary with director Stuart Gordon and costar and producer Lionel Mark Smith. In commentary, Mamet is as terse as his characters.

"Changing Times" (Koch Lorber, $30): France's luminous veterans Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu star in Andre Techine's bittersweet love story about a businessman who seeks out his first love.

"South Park: The Hits, Vol. 1 -- Matt and Trey's Top 10" (Paramount, $37): Trey Parker and Matt Stone admit in commentary that they don't think older episodes hold up -- which is why their picks are newish. Included are the Scientology spoof "Trapped in the Closet" as well as "The Return of the Fellowship of the Rings to the Two Towers," "Scott Tenorman Must Die," "Red-Hot Catholic Love" and the series launcher, "The Spirit of Christmas."


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