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NEW RELEASES

3-D thrills and those Rascals

October 26, 2008|Noel Murray | Murray is a freelance writer.

Journey to the Center of the Earth

New Line, $28.98; Blu-ray, $35.99

Both the DVD and Blu-ray editions of the Brendan Fraser adventure vehicle wisely include the 3-D version (along with the necessary eyewear) because, well, audiences at home like putting on dorky-looking cardboard glasses and ducking flying objects. For those more interested in "Journey's" story -- about a geologist who searches for a missing relative using clues found in Jules Verne's original novel -- these discs do contain the 2-D version as well, along with featurettes, interactive games and commentary.

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Death Defying Acts

Weinstein, $19.98

Harry Houdini's preoccupation with debunking psychics forms the foundation for this slight period romance, which stars Guy Pearce as Houdini and Catherine Zeta-Jones as the nightclub mind-reader trying to con him. There's some reasonably smart stuff here about showmanship and satisfying a crowd, but "Death Defying Acts" never resolves into anything surprising or moving. The DVD includes a making-of featurette and a commentary track by director Gillian Armstrong.

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Kit Kittredge:

An American Girl

New Line, $28.98; Blu-ray, $26.95

As feature-length doll commercials go, director Patricia Rozema's "Kit Kittredge" is surprisingly fleshed-out. Abigail Breslin heads up an all-star cast (featuring Chris O'Donnell, Julia Ormond, Jane Krakowski, Stanley Tucci, Joan Cusack and Glenne Headly) in the story of a Depression-era middle class pre-teen who learns to respect the trials of "the forgotten man" when her own father loses his job.

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The Little Rascals

The Complete Collection

Genius Products, $89.95

From 1929 to 1938, Hal Roach studios produced 80 groundbreaking short subjects starring "Our Gang," a group of multi-ethnic kids having slapstick adventures. This box set collects the whole run and sweetens the deal with commentary tracks, cast interviews, featurettes about the series' progressive social order, and three bonus shorts from the "Little Rascals" silent era. Though rights issues keep the set from having material from the post-Roach years, it's no great loss. These shorts were the ones that generations came to love from countless hours of syndicated TV repeats.

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NewsRadio

The Complete Series

Sony, $59.95

It's heartening that a show as odd and little-watched as NBC's "NewsRadio" ran for five full seasons in the '90s, all the while defying sitcom convention. The male and female leads (Dave Foley and Maura Tierney) hooked up in the second episode rather than playing "will they or won't they?" for season after season; the supporting cast was populated by offbeat comic actors Phil Hartman, Andy Dick and Stephen Root; the workplace (a New York news/talk radio station) barely factored into the "workplace comedy"; and much of the comedy was built around framing and blocking, not catchphrases and double-entendres. Even the cast recognizes how good they had it: Most of the commentary and featurettes in this must-own set are about how much they miss the creative joy of working on something so special.

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Also this week

Abbott & Costello

The Complete Universal Pictures Collection

Universal, $119.98

Baraka

MPI, $29.98; Blu-ray, $34.98

Body of War

Docurama, $26.95

Hell Ride

Weinstein, $19.98; Blu-ray, $29.95

Red

Magnolia, $26.98

Sanford & Son

The Complete Series

Sony, $59.95

Tinker Bell

Walt Disney, $29.99; Blu-ray, $34.99

The Wild Parrots

of Telegraph Hill

New Video Group, $39.95

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