New DVD Spin: Close Encounters, Princess Bride, and It's a Wonderful Life

The "Nice to See You Again" Discs of the Week:

Close

Encounters of the Third Kind: 30th Anniversary Ultimate Edition

(Sony)

An obsessive-compulsive man, prone to seeing things and then sobbing

in the shower, loses his job, abandons his wife and kids, and goes on

the lam to Wyoming, where he submits to a secret government black-ops

project involving foreign kidnappers.

Steven Spielberg's classic enters the next-generation digital age on

a sparkling new DVD and now also on the new Blu-ray disc format. The

newly remastered image is vivid and razor sharp, and the sound options

include Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio.

Whether you choose the DVD or Blu-ray edition, each of these

multi-disc sets incorporates all three versions of the film, including

the first-ever home video release of the 1977 original theatrical cut,

as well as the re-edited 1980 theatrical Special Edition and

Spielberg's definitive Director's Cut released to home video and

Laserdisc in 1998 as the Collector's Edition, then on DVD in 2001. (IMDB.com

details the various edits

target="_blank">here.)

The Blu-ray release provides for all three versions of Close

Encounters on one 50GB disc through a process known as "seamless

branching," made possible with the added interactivity of Blu-ray's

software and the robust processing power of the second-generation

players.

Both the Blu-ray and the DVD versions are packed with bonus

features, including deleted scenes, a new 22-minute exclusive interview

with Spielberg, the 97-minute "Making of Close Encounters of the

Third Kind" retrospective documentary, a fold-out mini-poster that

illustrates the alterations made to the film over the years in a

timeline flow-chart, and a 64-page Collectible Booklet. Available only

with the Blu-ray version are additional bonus features including all

new (and expansive!) "Storyboard-to-Scene Comparisons" (about

90 minutes), the original 1977 "Watch the Skies" featurette, a subtitle

track version of the alterations timeline flow-chart, and more.

It's

a Wonderful Life: Two-Disc Collector's Set

(Paramount Home Video)

"Teacher says, every time a bell rings an angel gets its wings." This

is what they're teaching kids in schools these days?

With this DVD edition, Frank Capra's holiday standard has never

looked better on home video. Disc One beautifully restores the original

black-and-white image so that it's noticeably superior -- cleaner,

sharper, improved definition -- compared to previous releases. The

second disc holds a newly colorized version, and it's surprisingly well

done (if you must have a colorized version).

We get the same extras found on the earlier Silver Screen Classics

edition: a tribute to Frank Capra narrated by his son Frank Capra, Jr.;

the 23-minute 1990 TV special "The Making of It's A Wonderful Life"

hosted by Tom Bosley with Sheldon Leonard, James Stewart and archive

footage of Capra; and the original theatrical trailer.

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Princess Bride: 20th Anniversary Edition (MGM)

The Grandson: "Has it got any sports in it?"

Grandpa: "Are you kidding? Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants,

monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles..."

The Grandson: "Doesn't sound too bad."

This popular confection, directed by Rob Reiner, returns for its

20th anniversary. This is, however, the fourth time MGM has released

the film on DVD. So the big question is: Does this edition make a

worthwhile double or triple-dip for fans? Hardly.

If you already own last year's two-disc Collector's Edition, this

one has little to offer. The image is slightly improved in ways that

only the more eagle-eyed DVDphiles will notice, and the 5.1 audio

sounds the same. Rather than a super-duper 20th Anniversary package

that bundles all the extras from the 2001 Special Edition and the 2006

Collector's Edition, and then adds more, we instead get none of the

bonus material from previous releases and only a few meager new items.

Three retrospective featurettes -- "The Princess Bride: Untold Tales,"

"The Art of Fencing" and "Fairytales and Folklore" -- total less than

26 minutes. The only other menu item is a commercial for "The Official

Princess Bride DVD Game," which isn't even out of development yet.

Inconceivable!

Read

about more new DVDs.

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Mark Bourne