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THE DVD FILE

Maybe they win because of the `tux'

March 25, 2007|Susan King

The life after 1: Talk about the little penguin that could. Leading into the Oscars, the odds-on favorite for the animation Academy Award was Pixar-Disney's summer blockbuster, "Cars." After all, the CGI-animated film had picked up the Golden Globe and won the Annie Award for the best of 2006. So it was quite an upset when George Miller's dancing penguin movie, "Happy Feet," which debuts on DVD Tuesday, ended up winning the Academy Award.

It's the second year in a row that a film featuring the adorable flightless birds had warmed the cockles of the academy's heart -- "March of the Penguins" took home Oscar gold for 2005 as best documentary. It seems the academy couldn't deny the charms of a blue-eyed penguin named Mumble who can tap dance like nobody's business.

The musical-comedy with environmental overtones was also embraced by audiences -- taking some $195.6 million into its domestic coffers.

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Cuaron's 'Children' wades into DVD waters

The life after 2: "Children of Men," which arrives Tuesday on DVD, received more than its share of buzz when it opened last yuletide season.

Directed by Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron, who also co-wrote and co-edited the adaptation of P.D. James' thriller, "Children of Men" is set in the bleak, oppressive future of 2027 -- a civilization where no human has procreated in years. A compelling Clive Owen plays a disillusioned civil servant who agrees to transport a young woman who is miraculously pregnant to safety. Save for a few exceptions, reviews were splendid. Though the film made only $35.4 million in the U.S., it has developed a strong following.

The film went on to receive three Oscar nominations, including one for Emmanuel Lubezki's fluid, innovative camerawork, but came up empty-handed at the recent Academy Awards.

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Time to relive, relive all that is 'Mary Hartman'

The couch potato: Just as Norman Lear had turned the sitcom on its head in 1971 with "All in the Family," he reinvigorated the soap opera format in 1976 with his brilliant satire "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman," which makes its digital bow Tuesday. The syndicated series, which usually aired in markets after the late news, quickly became a cultural phenomenon. The subversive comedy revolved around hapless heroine Mary Hartman (Louise Lasser), who wore pigtails and believed everything she heard on commercials -- she was especially worried about the waxy yellow build-up on her kitchen floor. Mary lived in the fictional small Ohio town of Fernwood with her impotent husband, Tom (Greg Mullavey), and her randy grandfather Raymond (Victor Kilian), who was known as the "Fernwood Flasher." Loretta Haggers (Mary Kay Place) was her best friend, an aspiring country singer.

But problems quickly arose. Lasser was arrested in May 1976 for outstanding traffic violations. Then matters took a turn for the worse when the officers discovered a small amount of cocaine in her purse -- Lasser said the drug had been given to her and she had just thrown it into her purse and forgotten about it.

Just a few months later, she became the first host to be banned from "Saturday Night Live" because of her erratic behavior during the broadcast.

Lasser left "Mary Hartman" after 18 months, citing personal pressures. After her departure, the series struggled along for about six months with most of the original cast in the renamed "Forever Fernwood."

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A look at Rob Petrie, the formative years

Before he was a star: The new DVD "Dick Van Dyke: In Rare Form" gives fans of the award-winning star an opportunity to see him as a young performer cutting his comedic teeth during the 1958-59 season of ABC's "The Pat Boone-Chevy Showroom" musical variety show -- Larry Gelbart was the head writer and Woody Allen was on the staff of the show. Van Dyke performs monologues, pantomimes and even sings with Boone and Shirley Jones.

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-- Susan King

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