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New DVDs: ‘Babel,’ ‘The Prestige’

Also new: ‘Flushed Away,’ ‘Shut Up and Sing,’ ‘Man of the Year,’ ‘Family Ties’
/ Source: The Associated Press

“Babel”Nominated for best-picture at Sunday’s Academy Awards, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s sweeping drama follows the lives of families around the globe that are affected by a tragic shooting in the African desert, the film spanning three continents and unfolding in five languages. The cast list is headed by the top-billed Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett and Gael Garcia Bernal, who all deliver strongly, but the standout performances come from Adrianna Barraza as a Mexican nanny in crisis and Rinko Kikuchi as a deaf Japanese teen coping with her mother’s suicide. For such an expansive film, it’s disappointing the DVD arrives without any extras — no interviews, commentary or other background. It’s certainly a candidate for a special-edition DVD down the line, especially if it wins best picture. DVD, $29.99; HD DVD and Blu-ray discs, $39.99 each. (Paramount) Read the review

“The Prestige”

Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale play a deadly game of sleight-of-hand as rival magicians caught up in a blood feud in the early 1900s. Scarlett Johansson, Michael Caine, David Bowie and Andy Serkis (Gollum of “The Lord of the Rings” films) round out the main cast. Filmmaker Christopher Nolan, who directed Bale and Caine in “Batman Begins,” combines historical drama, mystery and fantasy for this ambitious saga of a friendship that sours over tragedy during a magic act, pitting two old pals against each other in a lifelong pursuit to outdo the other. The DVD and high-definition Blu-ray disc include segments on the film’s visual gimmicks, twisting plot deceptions and Victorian-era re-creations, along with a featurette on Bowie’s character, engineer and inventor Nikola Tesla. DVD, $29.99; Blu-ray disc, $37.99. (Disney) Read the review

“Flushed Away”

To remind “Prestige” fans that he’s really a big softie, Hugh Jackman leads the voice cast in this animated comedy, playing the mouthpiece for an upper-crust pet mouse who’s flushed down the toilet and lands among the gutter rats and other bottom dwellers in the sewers of London. He teams up with a plucky boat-captain rodent (Kate Winslet) and battles an evil toad (Ian McKellen) plotting Armageddon for the denizens of the underworld. DVD extras include two music videos featuring the movie’s chorus of singing slugs, a featurette on the music and pop tunes in the film and a segment about the voice cast. The filmmakers also provide commentary. DVD, $29.99. (DreamWorks) Read the review

“Man of the Year”

Film Title: Man of the Year
After winning the presidential election, comedian-turned-candidate Tom Dobbs (ROBIN WILLIAMS) addresses Congress in the comic tale of an entertainer?s accidental rise to power, ?Man of the Year?. ?Man of the Year? will be released on October 13, 2006.Photo Credit: Ava Gerlitz / Univ

Robin Williams captures the White House in this comedy about the wisecracking host of a political talk show, who takes it on himself to throw the bums out by running for president — and winning under the maiden run of a new computerized voting system. Barry Levinson writes and directs, with Christopher Walken co-starring as the entertainer-turned-politician’s manager and Laura Linney playing a software whiz with a dangerous secret about how Williams got elected. Two featurettes offer behind-the-scenes glimpses of Williams’ manic improvisational style and Levinson’s filmmaking methods. DVD, $29.98. (Universal) Read the review

“Shut Up and Sing”

Fresh off their big night at the Grammys, the Dixie Chicks are seen here offering filmmakers Barbara Kopple and Cecelia Peck intimate access to their professional and private lives as they try to rebound from their ostracism by the country-music establishment. The documentary chronicles the trio’s troubles after singer Natalie Maines told a concert crowd on the eve of the Iraq war that the group was ashamed President Bush came from their home state of Texas; the remark touched off a firestorm as country stations banned the Chicks’ music and critics called them traitors. A provocative examination of free-speech rights, the film follows the three women through the development of their album “Taking the Long Way” and its defiant single “Not Ready to Make Nice,” which swept all the top Grammy categories. DVD, $28.95. (Genius) Read the review

TV on DVD:

“Family Ties: The Complete First Season” — The 1980s sit-com that gave Michael J. Fox his big break debuts on DVD. Fox plays an ultraconservative teen with liberal parents (Meredith Baxter Birney and Michael Gross), a ditzy sister (Justine Bateman) and a tomboy youngest sister. A four-disc set has the first 22 episodes. DVD set, $42.99. (Paramount)

“Alias Smith and Jones: Season One” — The Western series from the 1970s stars Ben Murphy and Pete Duel as outlaws trying to go straight, who adopt new identities to avoid bounty hunters on their trail. The first 15 episodes come in a four-disc set. DVD set, $39.98. (Universal)

“What’s New, Scooby-Doo? Complete 1st Season” — A two-disc set holds season one of the new cartoon adventures of the goofy Great Dane and his ghost-busting human pals. The set has the first 13 episodes, plus a special Valentine’s Day episode. DVD set, $19.98. (Warner Bros.)

“Penn & Teller: Bull---t — The Complete Fourth Season” — The magicians and showmen continue their efforts to expose some of the bull of modern life, taking on such issues as capital punishment, abstinence and even the Boy Scouts. Year four’s 10 episodes come in a three-disc set. DVD set, $29.99. (Showtime)

“Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea: Season Two, Volume Two” — The super submarine Seaview sails again with a three-disc set packing the second half of season two. The set has 13 episodes of the 1960s sci-fi adventure series. DVD set, $29.98. (20th Century Fox)

Other new releases:

“Crossover” — Anthony Mackie and Wesley Jonathan play best buddies and gifted basketball players who challenge the reigning champs in a secret underground streetball competition. Jonathan joins director Presley A. Whitmore II for audio commentary. DVD, $26.96. (Sony) Read the review

“Gandhi” — A two-disc set marks the 25th anniversary of the best-picture winner starring Ben Kingsley in the life story of the slain pacifist. The huge range of behind-the-scenes materials includes interviews with Kingsley and director Richard Attenborough. DVD set, $24.96. (Sony)