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There's music to go with whimsy

`A Prairie Home Companion' features extended performances and humorous advertising segments.

October 10, 2006|Susan King | Times Staff Writer

Even at 81, iconoclastic director Robert Altman is still a maverick who marches to his own drummer, imbuing his most recent films with the same vitality and freewheeling sensibilities that have been his hallmark over the last three decades.

His latest film, "A Prairie Home Companion" (New Line, $28), is vintage Altman -- superb ensemble cast, witty dialogue, anti-establishment feel -- who began his career writing for radio, to which he returns for this gentle comedy based on Garrison Keillor's folksy weekly show. In this fictionalized version -- shot at the radio series' home, the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, Minn. -- Keillor has learned that the evening's broadcast will be the last because a new owner is going to tear down the theater for a parking lot. In addition to Keillor, it stars Lily Tomlin and Meryl Streep as country singing sisters, Lindsay Lohan as Streep's fatalistic daughter, Kevin Kline as the suavely clumsy head of security, Guy Noir, Woody Harrelson and John C. Reilly as the singing cowboys Dusty & Lefty, Tommy Lee Jones as the cold-hearted new owner and Virginia Madsen as a mysterious woman.

Extras include a lengthy, entertaining "making of" documentary, toe-tapping extended musical performances and humorous full-length advertising segments, and affectionate commentary with Altman and Kline.


Also new

"Click" (Sony, $29): Adam Sandler and his "The Wedding Singer" director, Frank Coraci, reunited for this item that performed well at the box office despite wan critical reception. Sandler plays a workaholic who neglects his wife (Kate Beckinsale) and two kids. Sandler thinks his time-crunch problems are solved when he's given a magical remote by an oddball (Christopher Walken) he meets in the "Beyond" section of Bed, Bath & Beyond that allows him to fast-forward through life's more tedious moments.

Included are several mini-documentaries, including one on the design of Sandler's fat suit and another on the movie's special effects, as well amusing commentary with Sandler, Coraci, co-writer Steve Koren and executive producer Tim Herlihy.

"The King" (ThinkFilm, $28): This creepy thriller finds Gael Garcia Bernal playing a young man named Elvis who, after being discharged from the Navy, goes to find the father (William Hurt) he has never known. The married preacher rejects Elvis, who sets about retaliating in the most unsavory ways. Extras include deleted scenes, a rehearsal scene and passable commentary from co-writer-producer Milo Addica and co-writer-director James Marsh.

"The Butterfly Effect 2" (New Line, $20): This made-for-DVD sequel to the 2004 Ashton Kutcher thriller plays out like a bad cable movie. Extras include a "making-of" documentary -- the budget was so sparse, the film was shot in just 20 days -- and commentary with director John R. Leonetti and co-producer Michael Stirling that is more interesting than the film.

"Holiday Inn -- Special Edition" (Universal, $20): The 1942 classic Irving Berlin musical starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire introduced the Oscar-winning standard "White Christmas" and inspired creation of the Holiday Inn motel chain. This DVD edition includes "A Couple of Song and Dance Men," an amateurishly shot retrospective on Crosby and Astaire with Astaire's daughter Ava Astaire-MacKenzie and film historian Ken Barnes, an overview of the musical numbers and historical commentary with Barnes with juicy archival audio of the two stars.

"Brideshead Revisited -- 25th Anniversary Collector's Edition" (Acorn, $60): The seminal British miniseries mesmerized American audiences in 1982 when it aired Monday evenings on PBS' "Great Performance." Based on the Evelyn Waugh novel, the drama revolves around a poor Oxford student (Jeremy Irons) who becomes enchanted with a fellow student, the rich, charming and very Catholic Sebastian (Anthony Andrews). Diana Quick, Nickolas Grace, Claire Bloom and Laurence Olivier also star. This four-disc set includes a rather lame retrospective, "Revisiting Brideshead," some amusing outtakes and insightful commentary with Irons, Grace and Quick on the first episode and with Andrews and producer Derek Granger on the fourth.

"Black Rain -- Special Collector's Edition" (Paramount, $15): Ridley Scott directed this slickly effective 1989 cop thriller starring Michael Douglas and Andy Garcia as two New York detectives assigned to escort a killer for the Yakuza back to Japan.

Extras include a well-produced retrospective with cast and crew interviews, and captivating commentary from Scott, who discusses his involvement in the project and the challenges of making a movie in Tokyo.

"Sword of Honour" (Acorn, $40): With Daniel Craig's debut as James Bond in "Casino Royale" about a month away, several of his British TV projects are starting to surface on DVD, including this compelling 2001 miniseries based on Evelyn Waugh's semi-autobiographical novel. Craig makes a nice impression as Guy Crouchback, a thirtysomething divorcee who despite his age joins the British service during World War II.


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