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`Babel' buzz is building

February 18, 2007|Susan King

The afterlife 1: Though the box office hasn't been exactly robust for the gritty, globe-trotting drama "Babel" -- it has made just $30.3 million domestically -- the movie, which arrives Tuesday on DVD, won a Golden Globe for best dramatic film and is nominated for seven Oscars, including best picture and director (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu).

The critics first took notice of the complex ensemble drama at the Cannes Film Festival last May -- Inarritu won best director, the film took the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury, and editor Stephen Mirrione received the Technical Grand Prize. And the Oscar nominations have certainly bolstered the film's DVD status. "Babel" is ranked ninth in presales on Amazon.com.

Toontown turmoil

The afterlife 2: There have been a lot of high-profile breakups of late -- Nick and Jessica, Reese and Ryan, Brittany and Kevin -- and now, DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. and Aardman Animations, the British studio responsible for the Oscar-winning stop-motion animation shorts "Creature Comfort," "A Close Shave" and "The Wrong Trousers," the latter starring the befuddled inventor and his silent dog -- Wallace & Gromit.

DreamWorks and Aardman's first collaboration, 2000's "Chicken Run," was a commercial and critical success. Their 2005 film, "Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit," won the Oscar for animated film but didn't catch on with audiences, and DreamWorks reported a $25-million loss on the film.

And their latest collaboration, "Flushed Away," on DVD Tuesday, also was a box-office dud, leading to a write-down for the studio that analysts have estimated to be as much as $115 million. So on Jan. 30, both studios "Flushed Away" their ties.

Carson chronicles

Johnny come early: Back in 1955, Johnny Carson was just a young staff writer on the CBS series "The Red Skelton Show." One night, he went on for Skelton after the veteran funny man was injured during a rehearsal. The network was so impressed it gave him his own series, "The Johnny Carson Show," which aired for 39 weeks in 1955-56.

The Shout Factory is offering a two-disc set of 10 digitally restored episodes. Carson, lanky and with enough pomade to create an oil slick, is a bit stiff in his sketches, monologues and impersonations. He was still very much the Nebraska farm boy and family man, seemingly light-years removed from the acerbic sophisticate of "The Tonight Show."

Extras include an episode of his 1956 CBS daytime series, "The Johnny Carson Show," a very funny 1958 episode of his game-show series "Who Do You Trust?" and a clip of Carson guest-hosting "The Jack Paar Show" -- which would become "The Tonight Show" -- in 1958.

Spiceless 'Seasons'

Not so special delivery: This Tuesday, Sony is releasing a "special edition" of the multi-Oscar-winning 1966 film "A Man for All Seasons." How special is it? The only extra on the disc is a featurette on Sir Thomas More, whom Paul Scofield plays so brilliantly in the drama.

-- Susan King

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