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DVD report

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December 16, 2007

The ultimate in replicant replication

When Ridley Scott put together a DVD director’s cut of ‘‘Alien’’ a few years ago, he bluntly admitted that he’d been perfectly satisfied with his film, thanks, and that this was just geek appeasement. But there has always been something naggingly future-imperfect for him about ‘‘Blade Runner’’ (1982), his even more influentially atmospheric sci-fi masterwork. Hence the five versions of the movie included in a new, briefcase-packaged ‘‘Ultimate Collector’s Edition,’’ despite the undiminished relevance of Scott’s vision of LA circa 2019: a neonsoaked omnicultural sprawl where biologically engineered life is a very real concern, leaving throwback cop Harrison Ford dealing with ‘‘replicants’’ run amok. A new ‘‘Final Cut’’ showcased here isn’t substantially different from Scott’s 1992 director’s cut, save for digitally polished picture and sound quality. The more radical makeover, as fans know, came when Scott reworked the original US theatrical version for the ’92 release, dropping Ford’s retro voice-over and a forced happy ending.

Both of those iterations are included here, along with an international cut and, more interestingly, a work print originally screened for test audiences. The bigger draw, depending on one’s level of fanaticism, is the retrospective documentary ‘‘Dangerous Days’’ — at 3-1/2 hours, nearly twice as long as the movie. Scott’s frequently abrasive meticulousness is laid out in fascinating detail, interspersed with all sorts of production curiosities. Witness footage of a stuntman doubling for replicant-gymnast Daryl Hannah, complete with leotard, or the revelation that vehicles designed by futurist Syd Mead were built on VW frames. Apparently Woody Allen got it right in ‘‘Sleeper.’’ (Warner, $78.92; fourdisc and two-disc packages also available, $34.99/$20.97)

"THE SIMPSONS MOVIE" (2007)

Think of it as "The Simpsons Complete Season 18.5." We do. There isn't much about this environmental spoof to really justify feature treatment, our glimpse of Bart's, um, Little Bart notwithstanding. (Where are the scenes in the visual vein of, say, Beavis and Butt-head having widescreen fun playing Godzilla in their movie?) Still, like the show, this is dependably silly-smart entertainment. The DVD similarly doesn't approach things in any particularly special way, but the usual gang commentaries with Matt Groening and friends do give a sense of what it must have been like in the writers' room. Amid all the guffawing, there's also an answer to the obvious "why now" question: One staffer comments that software improvements allowed for quickly tweaking the animation in response to test screenings, something that wasn't possible even a few years ago. The disc is filled out by deleted scenes, trailers, and promotional addenda, including a "Let's All Go to the Lobby" parody with Homer wreaking amusingly predictable havoc on anthropomorphized refreshments. (Fox, $29.98)

"STARDUST" (2007)

It's the whimsically imaginative ideas rather than the hit-and-miss headlining performances that carry this underappreciated adaptation of graphic novelist Neil Gaiman's fairy tale. Charlie Cox is a shopboy whose puppy-love fixation on a snooty girl compels him to journey to an enchanted land to retrieve a fallen star for her. (Conveniently, the magic kingdom lies just one town over.) There he finds that stars actually have human form - in this case, Claire Danes's - and that she's quite the hottie herself, of course. Michelle Pfeiffer has wicked fun as a witch out to devour Danes's essence, replenishing her own lost youth and beauty. (In the movie's best recurring gag, every time she casts a spell, some new extremity seems to wilt and droop.) And then there's Robert De Niro. His turn as a fey sky pirate certainly proves he's up for anything - but where Johnny Depp knows how to skip off to adventureland with a wink, De Niro's heavy handedness just leaves you groaning, "Arrr."

Extras: A production featurette is your update on director Matthew Vaughn, last seen shooting gangsters in "Layer Cake," and then somewhat perplexingly backing out of "X-Men: The Last Stand" for this project. (Paramount, $29.99)

‘Once’ upon a time in Dublin

People don't burst into song in "Once" because the orchestra's swelling out of nowhere. The guy and the girl are working musicians and played by working musicians: Glen Hansard, of the Dublin-based group The Frames, and the Czech singer-songwriter Marketa Irglova. (The two are now a couple both onstage and in life.)

The performances unfold in well-lit music shops at lunch hour, in recording studios, on double-decker buses, in apartments late at night. Most movies cut away after a few strums, but director John Carney settles in for the long take, and you suddenly realize this is the musical number. "Once" actually resurrects that hoariest of old genre cliches, the scene in which the couple take a break from performing, sit at a battered piano, and share a tune. It's the only form of courtship the two know.

The film's set in a rough but openhearted Dublin, the sort of city where even the loan officer's a frustrated musician. The hero works at his father's vacuum cleaner repair shop and busks on the street in the evenings; the girl is listening and wants to compare notes, literally. She brings a broken vacuum cleaner to their next meeting - it trails after her like a sick puppy - and he mistakes this for romantic interest, which it's not.

Eventually, though, he plays her a song he has written and kept to himself, and when she tentatively joins in on harmony, it's like a first kiss. The climax of the movie's not a love scene but a recording-studio sequence: The guy and the girl and their hastily assembled band try to cobble the pieces of what they're feeling into something that might convince a stranger hearing it on the radio. "Once" observes the mystery of the creative act - the false starts, the gathering groove - and finds within it a larger community. Suddenly, the movie has become a different sort of love story, a group grope toward the sublime.

Carney shoots "Once" raw, aiming for the aimlessness of captured life. The Irish accents are thick, the lighting 40-watt, the leads dour and unpretty. If you need glamour, this is not your movie. The guy and the girl - we never do learn their names - don't have much use for glamour anyway. They're listening to the musical we each carry inside us and that no one ever hears. "Once" hears it, though, and it rocks the soul.

Extras: Director's and leads' commentary; featurette. (20th Century Fox, $29.99)

When gangsters dress to kill

Johnnie To makes pulled-taffy versions of a Hong Kong action movie. A scene that would last two minutes in another director's film stretches to about 15 in one of his.

In "Exiled," a pair of hit men arrive in a quiet Macao neighborhood. They stand around on the street waiting for their target. They see another pair of gentlemen loitering, too. They're both looking to kill the same guy, an ex-mobster named Wo (Nick Cheung). Eventually, everybody descends on Wo's place with Wo present. Guns are drawn and gradually put away. They happen to be old buddies!

That reunion sequence sets up the rest of the picture, which consists of scenes paced more for leisure than action. The slow rhythms owe something to a Sam Peckinpah western. Macao in this movie feels like an old frontier town with pockets of modernity.

To's deliberate pacing forges comedy that trumps pure violence. In "Exiled," all the waiting around and talking actually feels pretty French. But even by those standards, this assembly of crooks, thugs, and murderers is terribly chic. Before one session of sitting around culminates in well-choreographed mayhem at a fancy restaurant, a character expresses displeasure with his drink options. "Anything less than Chateau Lafite '82 is garbage!"

This is a movie in which guns blaze and the bullets rarely hit anyone. The violent scenes are tinged with an otherworldly red haze. They could be on Mars. And judging from some of these shoot-outs, they probably are.

Extras: Featurettes, trailers, photo gallery. (Magnolia, $26.98)

ALSO THIS WEEK

"HALLOWEEN" (2007)

So let's see - Rob Zombie's horror remake was released in late summer so that the DVD could hit stores in time for . . . Christmas? Strange, as is the lack of genuine suspense here. Still, as with all entries in the growing Zombie oeuvre (always wondered when we'd get to use that term), the movie does have a vividly grimy aesthetic going for it, and an extended prequel section holds interest.

Extras: Unrated footage; casting tapes show how Scout Taylor-Compton was chosen to fill Jamie Lee Curtis's shoes; and bloopers show life of the party Malcolm McDowell having the good time he doesn't seem to be having onscreen as Dr. Loomis. (Genius Products, $29.95)

"UNDERDOG" (2007)

This character was never meant to have an edge - in the cartoons, he's a shoeshine kid fretting about being paid with wooden nickels, for pete's sake. All of which makes this "hip" CG-aided updating slightly irksome, despite voice work by Jason Lee. But hey, it's not about you, it's about your kids, right?

Extras: The purebred stuff - Underdog's '60s cartoon debut. (Disney, $29.99)

"DEEP WATER" (2007)

Documentarians Louise Osmond and Jerry Rothwell go fishing for "Touching the Void" viewers with the story of amateur yachtsman Donald Crowhurst and the demons he stirred up while sailing solo in a disastrous round-the-world boat race. (Genius Products, $24.96)

REISSUES

"BRAVEHEART" (1995)

Mel Gibson's directorial (and Academy) breakthrough gets a two-disc reissue several years after its DVD debut, with some recycled extras but also (freedom!) high-def remastering. (Paramount, $19.99)

"NEW YORK, NEW YORK" (1977)

Saxophonist Robert De Niro and singer Liza Minnelli play out their tempestuous relationship against a musical backdrop in the one that got away from De Niro and director Martin Scorsese.

Extras: Commentary by Scorsese; alternate takes; Minnelli interview. (MGM, $19.98; available now)

TELEVISION

"THE MOD SQUAD": SEASON 1, VOLUME 1 (1968-69)

This isn't "Easy Rider" or Woodstock; but, looking back, Linc, Pete, and Julie's cases certainly feel hipper than what they were competing against in prime time. The set includes exactly half of the season's 26 episodes.

Extras: Peggy Lipton and Michael Cole sit down for retrospective featurettes on the show and its impact. No Clarence Williams III, though, unless he's deep undercover somewhere. (Paramount, $42.99)

"BIG LOVE": THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON (2007)

Bill Paxton wrestles with Mormon issues decidedly soapier than Romney's - and in a trio of bonus prequel shorts, we get to see how and where it all started. (HBO, $59.99)

Capsules are written by Globe correspondent Tom Russo and titles are in stores Tuesday unless otherwise specified.

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