Selected home-video releases:
“Spider-Man 2” – Superhero Spidey returns in a rare sequel that critics generally found better than the original. Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker – aka Spider-Man – squares off against tentacled villain Doc Ock (Alfred Molina) and lets his alter ego slip to girl-next-door Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) and best-buddy-turned-archrival Harry (James Franco). Distributor Sony did not provide an advance copy for review, but the blockbuster comes in a two-disc set whose extra features include commentary with director Sam Raimi, Maguire and Marvel Studios boss Avi Arad.
Among documentary features are a look at Mary Jane and the other women of Spider-Man’s world, pop-up trivia factoids that can be accessed while watching the movie and a 12-part collection of featurettes tracking the film from initial planning to its Hollywood premiere. DVD set, $29.96; gift DVD set, $49.95. (Sony)
“Hero” – Jet Li, Maggie Cheung and Zhang Ziyi lead the cast in director Zhang Yimou’s sumptuous martial-arts epic set in ancient China. A 2002 nominee for foreign-language film at the Academy Awards, the tale spins through tellings and retellings of events as a king and his supposed savior (Li) exchange stories of assassins who have vowed to kill the ruler.
Among DVD extras are a conversation between Li and martial-arts fanatic Quentin Tarantino and a background featurette with cast and crew interviews. The DVD serves as a nice warm-up to Yimou’s second martial-arts epic, “House of Flying Daggers,” which hits theaters in December and could be a contender for the foreign-language Oscar this time around. DVD, $29.99. (Miramax)
“Daredevil: Director’s Cut” – The DVD format has prompted an unfortunate proliferation of director’s cuts for movies that were not that good in the first place and become more tiresome when given extended treatment. Last year’s comic-book superhero adaptation, starring Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner, is augmented by half an hour of extra footage, much of it centering on a tepid trial cut from the theatrical release in which Affleck’s attorney-by-day character defends a murder suspect (Coolio). Director Mark Steven Johnson and Marvel Studios boss Avi Arad provide commentary, and the DVD has a making-of featurette on the director’s cut. DVD, $19.98. (20th Century Fox)
“The Happy Gilmore-Billy Madison Collection” – Adam Sandler goes back to school and hits the links in a pair of mid-1990s flicks that helped cement his reputation as Hollywood’s most commercially viable purveyor of infantile comedy. “Billy Madison” casts Sandler as a spoiled rich kid whose dad makes him repeat grades 1-12 before he can take over the family business. “Happy Gilmore” has Sandler as a skating-challenged hockey player who applies his killer swing to the pro-golf circuit, where his temper lands him in trouble. The two-disc set has a handful of features unavailable on previous DVD releases, including a batch of deleted scenes. DVD set, $27.98. (Universal)
TV on DVD:
“Northern Exposure: The Complete Second Season” – Rob Morrow’s back as Joel Fleischman, a Manhattan doctor whining his way through indentured servitude in an offbeat Alaska town (really Roslyn, Wash.), which paid his way through medical school. Like the eight-episode season one, the year-two DVD set is pricey considering it’s just seven episodes on two discs. But fans of the fondly recollected show won’t grouse too much (remember, the more copies that sell, the more likely the studio will continue with DVD releases of the remaining four years, which were full seasons). Also like season one, the set is cleverly packaged in its own zip-up parka. DVD set, $59.98. (Universal)
“Tru Calling: The Complete First Season” – Eliza Dushku stars in the paranormal series that found a loyal cult following during its short run. Dushku plays a morgue attendant who can hear the voices of the dead calling for help, then travel back a day to keep them from dying. The six-disc set has the first 20 episodes, with commentary on some by Dushku, creator Jon Harmon Feldman and others, plus deleted scenes. DVD set, $59.98. (20th Century Fox)
“Lost in Space: Season Two, Volume Two” – The space family Robinson continues tooling through the cosmos looking for a way home in the campy 1960s sci-fi series. The second half of season two lands in a four-disc set with 14 episodes. The set includes interviews from 1966 with stars Guy Williams, June Lockhart and Jonathan Harris. DVD set, $39.98. (20th Century Fox)
“Prisoner: Cell Block H” – The cult Australian series that debuted in 1979 is a gritty look at life in a maximum-security prison for women. The three-disc best-of set has highlight episodes from the long-running show, along with interviews by co-stars Val Lehman and Anne Phelan and the series’ casting director. DVD set, $49.95. (A&E)
“The Protectors: Season 1” – Robert Vaughn led a trio of European crime fighters in this short-lived 1970s series from producer Gerry Anderson (“Thunderbirds,” “Space: 1999”). The four-disc set has 26 episodes, with commentary by director John Hough one on episode. DVD set, $79.95. (A&E)
Other new releases
“My Flesh and Blood” – This remarkable documentary chronicles the unique domestic life of Susan Tom, a single woman who adopted 11 special-needs children, among them legless girls, terminally ill boys and a victim of horrible burns. The starkly candid film presents moments of joyful family bonding, dark resentment and everything in between. Director Jonathan Karsh provides commentary, and the DVD has deleted scenes and additional interview footage. DVD, $26.95. (Docurama)
“Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius” – Jim Caviezel, who starred in “The Passion of the Christ,” plays the golf legend, notable for his explosive temper and his purist desire to remain an amateur rather than tour the circuit for money. The DVD has deleted scenes and commentary from director Rowdy Herrington. DVD, $26.96. (Sony)
Some DVD issues may not have corresponding VHS releases. VHS prices vary widely.
Tobey Maguire and Alfred Molina square off in “Spider-Man 2,” out today on video and DVD.