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A deeper look at `Daniel Johnston'

The new disc includes more interviews about the troubled artist, audio diaries and a reunion with his high school sweetheart.

September 19, 2006|Susan King | Times Staff Writer

"The Devil and Daniel Johnston" (Sony, $25) is a poignant documentary that examines madness, creativity, passion and love through the life and work of iconoclastic singer and artist Daniel Johnston, a manic depressive who has spent the last 30 years in and out of institutions.

Sundance honoree director Jeff Feuerzeig put together a haunting portrait of Johnston, using countless interviews with the composer-artist and his friends and family members as well as numerous audio diaries and letters, films, art work and performance footage.

Extras include several deleted scenes, more of Johnston's personal recordings and movies, a WFMU radio broadcast featuring Johnston, the Sundance World premiere featurette, footage of Johnston reuniting after 30 years with his high school sweetheart (the subject of his songs) and astute commentary from Feuerzeig and producer Henry S. Rosenthal, who spent four years making the film.

Four-time Academy Award nominee Jeff Bridges ventures into the teen comedy genre with the lively "Stick It" (Touchstone, $30). Bridges plays a former Olympian who runs a gymnastics academy for girls. But he has his work cut out for him when a rebellious former gymnast (Missy Peregrym) is forced to enroll in his school.

"Stick It" marks the directorial debut of Jessica Bendinger, who wrote the teen comedy "Bring It On." Extras include a blooper reel, a look at the champion gymnasts who doubled for the performers, and two audio tracks: one with Bendinger, Peregrym and costar Vanessa Lengies, which sounds more like a slumber party than a commentary track, and one that's more worthwhile with the bubbly Bendinger, cinematographer Daryn Okada and editor Troy Takaki.

Pulitzer-winning playwright David Mamet created the CBS action series "The Unit," which follows the adventures of a U.S. military special-forces unit. The first-season DVD (Paramount, $50) features a perfunctory behind-the-scenes featurette and a commentary track on the "Sere" installment with executive producer Shawn Ryan, supervising producer Eric L. Hanley -- a former special-forces member -- and actor Demore Barnes.

The psychological thriller "Hard Candy" (Lionsgate, $28) is a difficult watch. Ellen Page plays an innocent-looking 14-year-old girl who agrees to meet a thirtysomething photographer (Patrick Wilson) at a local coffee shop after they exchange risque e-mails. Extras include a lengthy documentary on the genesis and production of the low-budget film, deleted and extended scenes, better-than-average commentary with Wilson and Page, as well as an audio track with director David Slade and writer Brian Nelson.

Also new:

"The Chris Rock Show -- Seasons 1 & 2" (HBO, $35): The freshman and sophomore years of Rock's irreverent Emmy-winning talk-comedy series that ran from 1997 to 2000. The two-disc set features candid and sarcastic commentary from Rock on the first installment and finale of the second season.

"Backdraft" (Universal, $20): Two-disc special edition of Ron Howard's 1991 hit drama about two firefighting Chicago brothers (Kurt Russell and William Baldwin) isn't all that special. Howard provides a new introduction but no commentary. The production documentaries on the second disc consist of old and new interviews plus vintage behind-the-scenes footage. The best featurette is an interview with several firemen.

"Grease" (Paramount, $20): The "Rockin' Rydell" edition of the 1978 musical valentine to the 1950s is toe-tapping fun -- the DVD even comes in its own leather "Grease" jacket. Included on the disc is a "Rydell Sing-Along," 11 deleted, extended and alternate scenes of which only black-and-white footage exist -- with an introduction by director Randal Kleiser, a retrospective documentary with 8-year-old interviews with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, a kicky look at the roadsters used in the film and nostalgic commentary from Kleiser and choreographer Patricia Birch, who also choreographed the long-running Broadway version.

"The Boris Karloff Collection" (Universal, $30): The cover box states that this three-disc, five-film set features "The Master of Horror in His Most Frightening Roles."

Not quite, though the "Frankenstein" star is pretty gruesome as a deformed torturer who does the bidding of the psychopathic Richard the III (an odious Basil Rathbone) in the chilling "Tower of London" (1939). He's certainly not scary in the low-budget melodrama "Night Key" (1937), which finds Karloff as an aging inventor of a burglar alarm system who is kidnapped by a band of crooks. And you feel more pity than suspense in "The Climax" (1944), in which he plays an insanely jealous doctor. Rounding out the collection are two of Karloff's later vehicles, "The Strange Door" (1951) and "The Black Castle" (1952).

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