New DVD Spin: Ocean's 13, Shrek 3, Amazing Grace, Alexanderplatz

The "Three Times a Sequel" Discs of the Week:

Ocean's

Thirteen (Warner)

Steven Soderbergh's third hip-slick casino heist romp delivers another

complex caper with an "old Hollywood" feel. Handsome high-rolling

rogues George Clooney, Matt Damon and Brad Pitt learn that revenge is a

dish best served with a few aces (plus electronic security

gee-wizardry) up your well-creased sleeve. All with Al Pacino as the

bad guy, Elliott Gould in a coma, and Ellen Barkin, Eddie Izzard,

Bernie Mac, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Don Cheadle, Carl Reiner and

Vincent Cassel on board. The first one is still the best, but this one

-- even though its plot details are as preposterous as a Wile E. Coyote

scheme -- is better than the second. It's another good-looking spin of

a now-familiar wheel, pleasantly backed once again by David Holmes'

snappy Rat Pack-evoking score.

Ocean's Thirteen is now available individually or packaged

with its two predecessors in an "Ocean's" three-pack set. You can

choose from multiple editions: widescreen, full-screen, combo DVD/HD

DVD, and Blu-ray. The extras bring us additional scenes, a Jerry

Weintraub tour of the casino and a documentary on Las Vegas.

Shrek

the Third (Paramount Home Video/Dreamworks)

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The jolly green corporate icon is back, this time going all "meta"

(rather tiresomely) with King Arthur and his knights. Eddie Murphy

plays an ass. Again. Mike Myers and Cameron Diaz return too, of course,

dragging Antonio Banderas, Rupert Everett, Justin Timberlake, Julie

Andrews, John Cleese and Eric Idle through the plodding and witless

plot that will likely try the patience of even the tots hugging their

Shrek merchandise.

Extras: cast audio commentary, three additional scenes, "Donkey

Dance" with Donkey giving step-by-step instructions, "Shrek's Guide to

Parenthood," music videos, four trailers, interactive games, four

DVD-ROM features and more. Audio options include Dolby Digital 5.1 and

2.0 Surround, with language options that include (pretty cool) Arabic.

Available in widescreen, full-screen and HD DVD editions.

The "Bio Pick" Disc of the Week:

Amazing

Grace (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)

Director Michael Apted's inspiring and still-relevant 2006 film about

the campaign against the slave trade in 19th-century Britain, led by

social reformer William Wilberforce (Ioan Gruffudd), who was

responsible for steering anti-slave trade legislation through the

British parliament. The title comes from the hymn "Amazing Grace," and

the film also recounts former slave ship captain John Newton (Albert

Finney) writing the hymn. With Rufus Sewell, Youssou N'Dour, Romola

Garai and Michael Gambon. It's a bit slow-moving, but it's a class act.

And it's a reminder of days when politicians actually strove to achieve

good, noble and politically dangerous things for people who didn't even

vote for them.

DVD extras include commentary from Apted and Gruffudd, "behind the

scenes" and "making of" featurettes, and a music video.

The "I [heart] Criterion" Disc of the Week:

Berlin Alexanderplatz (The Criterion Collection)

Rainer Werner Fassbinder's wildly controversial fifteen-hour-plus

television mini-series, originally broadcast in 1980 and based on

Alfred Doblin's great modernist novel, is the crowning achievement of a

prolific director who, at age thirty-four, had already made forty

films. Fassbinder's immersive epic, restored in 2006 and now available

on DVD in the U.S. for the first time, follows the hulking, childlike

ex-convict Franz Biberkopf (Gunter Lamprecht) as he attempts to "become

an honest soul" amid the corrosive urban landscape of Weimar-era

Germany. With equal parts cynicism and humanity, Fassbinder details a

mammoth portrait of a common man struggling to survive in a viciously

uncommon time.

Criterion's seven-disc set includes a new high-definition digital

transfer from the 2006 restoration by the Fassbinder Foundation and

Bavaria Media, supervised and approved by director of photography Xaver

Schwarzenberger. It's in German with a new and improved English

subtitle translation.

As usual, Criterion loads the basket with first-rate bonus material

-- two new documentaries by Fassbinder Foundation president Juliane

Lorenz; one featuring interviews with the cast and crew; the other on

the restoration (totaling 97 minutes); Hans-Dieter Hartl's 1980

documentary Notes on the Making of "Berlin Alexanderplatz";

Phil Jutzi's 1931 film of the same story from a screenplay co-written

by Doblin himself; and a new video interview with Peter Jelavich,

author of Berlin Alexanderplatz: Radio, Film, and the Death of

Weimar Culture. The DVD case comes with a 72-page booklet

containing stills, Fassbinder's impressions of the original novel, an

appreciation by filmmaker Tom Tykwer, a Q&A with cinematographer

Xaver Schwarzenberger, and more.

Read

about more new DVDs.

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Mark Bourne