Casino Royale: Collectors Edition (MGM, 2006) Rating: NNNN; DVD package: NNNNN
This is one of the two best Bonds in the series' 46-year history and comes with a well-crafted extras package with some surprising content.
The movie reboots the series by putting Bond at the start of his career. He bungles and suffers physically and emotionally, which lets star Daniel Craig strut his considerable acting chops between the spectacular action scenes. He's well matched by Danish star Mads Mikkelsen as the terrorist financier he must defeat in a high-stakes poker game, and by Eva Green as the enigmatic treasury official who controls his purse.
The crew commentary is one of the best I've heard. It's made from cut-together interview remarks by cinematographer, producers, writers, costume designer, production designer, stunt and effects chiefs and editor. Everything is timed to appropriate moments in the movie to create a flowing narrative of problem-solving interspersed with concise lessons in filmmaking technique.
There's also an okay commentary by director Martin Campbell and producer Michael Wilson.
The original extras are on disc two: a couple of not-bad making-of docs and a TV special on Bond girls over the years. The contributions from Daniel Craig and Eva Green are the strongest.
Along with three good docs on the effects scenes, disc three takes us through the personal and professional elements in Ian Fleming's life that led to the novel, its subsequent legal entanglements and the importance of the Bahamas to the Bond movies and to Fleming himself. This, in turn, leads to an exploration of the rich and weird people who populated the islands and inspired Fleming's characters. Imagine - a real-life Pussy Galore. Who knew?
$24.99 at HMV (333 Yonge, 416-586-6698 ,and others).
The Sopranos: The Complete Collection (HBO Home Video, 1999-2007)
I haven't seen this set and I've never seen an episode of the show, but those who like the mobster family drama like it a lot, and based on the product description, the set sounds like a gem.
Here's what you get: all 86 episodes remastered onto 28 discs, plus two bonus discs, two soundtracks on three CDs, a 16-page episode guide and a numbered limited-edition certificate, all encased in a black linen box.
The two bonus discs promise over three hours of new material, highlighted by two sit-down dinners with cast and crew. Separate segments have Alec Baldwin interviewing series creator David Chase.
Other extras include original cast and crew commentaries, spoofs, deleted scenes and Chase discussing characters who were murdered during the show.
$299.99 at HMV.
Universal Legacy Series Special Editions: Rear Window (Universal, 1954), Vertigo (1958), Psycho (1960) Rating: NNNNN; DVD package: NNNNN
Three of Alfred Hitchcock's greatest movies get the deluxe two-disc treatment. Each title has been beautifully restored. Each is accompanied by a scholarly or historical commentary (Vertigo has two, the second by director William Friedkin), extensive making-of and appreciation docs, both recently produced), conversations between Hitchcock and French filmmaker François Truffaut, production notes and ephemera, plus an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
Hitchcock's movies are filled with fine performances - Anthony Perkins's agonized motel keeper in Psycho, Jimmy Stewart's cynical photographer in Rear Window and obsessed, despairing detective in Vertigo. They often get overlooked in the mechanics of murder and suspense, but they point to Hitchcock's complex, pessimistic view of humanity and more than repay repeated viewings.
Titles sold separately starting at $19.99 at HMV.