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Martin Scorsese, up front and center

'The Departed' DVD extras spotlight his career and gang films. Ryan Gosling shines in the indie 'Half Nelson.'

February 13, 2007|Susan King | Times Staff Writer

Not only is Martin Scorsese one of the most influential filmmakers of the last four decades, the iconoclastic director consistently delivers superior audio commentaries that offer rare insight into his life and the directing process.

Unfortunately, there is no Scorsese audio commentary on the two-disc set of "The Departed" (Warner, $35).

Nominated for five Academy Awards, including best picture and director, the gangster epic starring Leonard DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson and Mark Wahlberg is the biggest commercial hit of Scorsese's career and may be the film that will finally bring him his first Oscar.

Thankfully, he's front and center on the extras on the second disc. "Stranger Than Fiction: The True Story of Whitey Bulger, Southie and The Departed" is a fascinating featurette that explores the real-life Boston gang that inspired and influenced the film; "Scorsese on Scorsese" is a candid 2004 Turner Classic Movies documentary; and "Crossing Criminal Cultures" examines "The Departed" in conjunction with the director's other gang movies, "Mean Streets," "GoodFellas" and "Casino." Rounding out the disc are deleted and extended scenes, each with an informative introduction by Scorsese

Unlike "The Departed," the indie drama "Half Nelson" was seen in only about 100 theaters late last summer. But it impressed critics and members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The acting of its 26-year-old star, Ryan Gosling, was voted breakthrough male performance by the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures, and Gosling has been nominated for an Oscar, a Screen Actors Guild Award and a Spirit Award.

Gosling plays a dedicated inner-city junior high school teacher with a serious drug habit. After one of his students (Shareeka Epps) discovers his secret, the two become unlikely friends.

Extras include deleted and extended scenes, outtakes and low-key commentary from co-writer and director Ryan Fleck and co-writer Anna Boden.


Also new

"Infamous" (Warner, $28): Based on the book by George Plimpton, this stylish drama covers the same territory as "Capote" but explores the relationship between Truman Capote (Toby Jones) and murderer Perry Smith (Daniel Craig) in more intimate detail.

He looks like the author, but Jones seems to be doing more of an impersonation than a performance; Sandra Bullock stars as Nelle Harper Lee. Writer-director Douglas McGrath offers passionate commentary.

"Green for Danger" (Criterion, $40): An entertaining and offbeat British murder-mystery from 1946, directed and co-written by Sidney Gilliat, who previously had penned the Alfred Hitchcock films "Jamaica Inn" and "The Lady Vanishes," as well as the Carol Reed thriller "Night Train to Munich."

Set during the blitz of World War II, the film revolves around a postman who dies on the operating table at a countryside British hospital. Was the death an accident or murder? Sally Gray, Trevor Howard and Leo Genn are among the suspects. Alastair Sim steals the film as the slightly befuddled Inspector Cockrill of Scotland Yard. Extras include an interview with British film historian Geoff Brown.

"The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner" (Warner, $20): One of the seminal films from Britain's angry-young-man period of cinema of the late 1950s and early '60s. Tony Richardson directed the moody, atmospheric 1962 drama, starring Tom Courtenay in a touching performance as a social misfit who is sent to reform school after a robbery. He is picked by the school's warden (Michael Redgrave) to compete in a long-distance race with a private school.

"Ginger and Fred" (Warner, $20): Federico Fellini sends up society and television in this 1986 comedy-drama that stars his wife, Giulietta Masina, and Marcello Mastroianni as two retired dancing performers who reunite for a TV special.


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