THE PRINCESS BRIDE: 20TH ANNIVERSARY COLLECTOR'S EDITION (MGM, 1987)
This hugely beloved and highly rewatchable classic offers lighter-than-air romance, comedy and swashbuckling as farmboy Westley transforms himself into the Dread Pirate Roberts to win the fair but somewhat spacey Princess Buttercup.
The fairy tale works for kids, while the satiric take on true love and the sharp dialogue provide big chuckles for adults. Cary Elwes and Robin Wright Penn are perfect as Westley and Buttercup, and the supporting cast is brilliant, from Mandy Patinkin as a revenge-obsessed swordsman to Billy Crystal and Carol Kane as a whacked-out wizard and witch.
The extras package is short but high-quality: excellent docs on fencing and fairy tales and a collection of cast memories that focus more on emotion than production stories, including a touching tribute to André the Giant. $14.99 at amazon.ca.
THE EVIL DEAD: ULTIMATE EDITION (Anchor Bay, 1981)
Most horror movies pale after one screening, but The Evil Dead keeps on giving. Sam Raimi's simple tale of teenagers devoured by demons throws in every excess it can dream up to produce a relentless pulp nightmare. A massive helping of sheer creativity makes it enjoyable after the shocks have lost their bite.
This edition offers a mix of old and new extras. There's an audio commentary from director Sam Raimi and producer Rob Tapert on the wide-screen version, while star Bruce Campbell comments on the full-frame version. The two commentaries offer countless valuable lessons for aspiring filmmakers, as does the 54-minute making-of doc.
Disc three's features are mostly pitched toward the hardcore fan, but there's a nice look at the film's career as a video cult hit. In stores December 18. $23.98 at amazon.ca.
CHINATOWN: SPECIAL COLLECTOR'S EDITION (Paramount, 1974)
Chinatown is a classic, elegant, powerful and timeless. It moves with the inevitability of tragedy, thanks to Robert Towne's beautifully structured script, Roman Polanski's unobtrusive direction and Jerry Goldsmith's haunting score.
Jack Nicholson is at the top of his form as J.J. Gittes, successful private eye in 1930s Los Angeles, who gets drawn into murder, conspiracy and love, all stemming from one simple, terrible crime. Nicholson's aggression and conflicted emotions play beautifully against Faye Dunaway's emotionally damaged reticence, while neither seems to have a prayer of prevailing over John Huston's avuncular villainy.
Nicholson, Polanski, Towne and producer Robert Evans offer almost an hour of insightful memories on the disc's three retrospective making-of docs. $12.79 at amazon.ca.
LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD: UNRATED COLLECTORS EDITION (Fox, 2007)
This unrated version beats the theatrical version hands down: more blood, more swearing, more impact shots, more and louder bullet hits.
Star Bruce Willis and director Len Wiseman cover the reasons for the cuts on their commentary. There's also a good 10-part making-of doc on disc two and a nice interview with Kevin Smith and Willis. This time out Willis's John McClane is on the trail of a superhacker who is crippling the entire eastern seaboard.
Wiseman keeps the old Die Hard feel, with much action in cramped spaces, and adds an epic scope with widespread public disaster. Willis delivers his everyman performance, bringing plausibility to the finest collection of utterly unbelievable and wildly spectacular effects and stuntwork to come along in ages. $28.99 on amazon.ca.
GLOBAL WARNING (Mongrel, 2006)
Here's a good package for someone interested in documentary film and our impact on the environment. Multi-award-winning Manufactured Landscapes (2006) follows photographer Edward Burtynsky to China, where he looks at how its industrial revolution is altering the landscape. Good extras, including Burtynsky's commentary on his photos, flesh out the package.
A Crude Awakening (2006) examines the effects of the coming oil shortage. Refugees Of The Blue Planet (2006) looks on the world's 25 million people displaced by natural disaster. Environmentally friendly recycled packaging uses vegetable-based inks. A bargain at $26.36 on amazon.ca.