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DVD review: 'Dark Crystal,' 'Labyrinth' new to DVD, Blu-ray

Published: Monday, Oct. 5 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

Muppetish creatures are the stars of the Jim Henson fantasy "The Dark Crystal."

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Here are some of the movies arriving on DVD, led by a pair of Blu-ray reissues of elaborate Jim Henson fantasies, made during his Grotesque Muppet Period — dark and fitfully fascinating riffs on "Alice in Wonderland" and "The Wizard of Oz," by way of "The Lord of the Rings" and "Star Wars."

"The Dark Crystal" (Sony/Blu-ray, 1982, PG, $27.95). This is the best of the two films, the story of a young boy (actually, a gelfling) who ventures on a quest to replace a missing shard from the title crystal, a life-giving force at the center of this bizarre world.

And it's that world and its wide variety of Muppetish creatures that take center stage, easily overwhelming the thin story line. It also benefits from the hi-def brilliance offered by this Blu-ray transfer. (Co-directed by Muppet veteran Frank Oz, who went on to become a filmmaker in his own right.)

Extras: widescreen, deleted scenes, audio commentary, featurettes, games (including all the previous editions' bonus features and several that are new)

"Labyrinth" (Sony/Blu-ray, 1986, PG, $27.95). This film has a higher-profile cast, with David Bowie playing the King of the Goblins, who kidnaps a baby and then sends the child's bratty sister (played by a 15-year-old Jennifer Connelly) through a maze to rescue the child, if she does so within a time limit.

There's a lot of wonderful imagery here, along with Henson's signature creatures, but the writing is thin, Connelly's performance is obnoxious and there are some surprisingly tasteless elements.

Extras: widescreen, deleted scenes, audio commentary, featurettes, picture-in-picture commentary/storyboards, trailers

"Fireproof" (Sony/Blu-ray, 2008, PG, $28.95). This is a Blu-ray reissue of the popular low-budget Christian film about an angry firefighter (Kirk Cameron) who accepts "The Love Dare" from his father in an effort to save his marriage. Independently produced (by a Baptist organization), the film is overlong and flawed, especially with its comic-relief characters, but the save-the-marriage message is compelling, and Cameron and Erin Bethea as his wife are excellent.

Extras: widescreen, delted scenes, audio commentary, featurettes, music video, bloopers, trailers

"Away We Go" (Focus/Universal, 2009; R for sex, language; $29.98). Although it's too raunchy in places (including the opening scene), this is otherwise a nice little relationship/road comedy about a couple (John Krasinski, Maya Rudolph) trying to find their place in the world (literally). Good performances by all (including Jeff Daniels, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Allison Janney, Catherine O'Hara) — but the standout is Rudolph.

Extras: widescreen, featurettes, trailers

"Shrink" (Lionsgate, 2009; R for drugs, language; $27.98). Kevin Spacey is very good in a familiar role, the burned-out, drugged-up psychiatrist who's more wacked-out than his patients, which include Saffron Burrows and an unbilled Robin Williams. The standout here is Keke Palmer, who proves that "Akeelah and the Bee" was no fluke.

Extras: widescreen, deleted scenes, audio commentary, featurette, music video, trailers

"The Lost and Found Family" (Sony, 2009, PG, $24.96). In this straight-to-DVD film Ellen Bry is a high-society widow who finds she's broke, save a house in rural Georgia that is occupied by a foster family. Of course, she doesn't exactly get along with rebel teens Lucas Till and Jessica Luza, but this being a faith film, they'll come together.

Extras: widescreen, trailers

"Fermat's Room" (IFC, 2007, $19.98). Puzzles meet horror in this Spanish thriller as four famed mathematicians find themselves in a room tricked-out with hydraulics. They are asked questions, and wrong answers cause the walls to close in. But who wants to kill them, and why?

Extras: widescreen, in Spanish with English subtitles, trailers

"Filth and Wisdom" (IFC, 2008, $19.98). Madonna made her film-directing debut with this sleazy rock-and-roll melodrama about a cross-dressing Ukrainian rock singer, an aspiring ballerina who works as a stripper and the kleptomaniac who steals drugs from the pharmacy where she works.

Extras: widescreen, trailer

"The Hills Run Red" (Warner, 2009; R for violence, sex, nudity, language, drugs; $19.98). This gory "torture porn" flick introduces its own version of Jigsaw in the form of "Baby Face," a slasher in a baby-doll mask who knocks off stupid movie geeks.

Extras: widescreen, audio commentary, featurette, trailers

"Too Cool for School Collection" (Mill Creek, 1976-86; PG/R for sex, nudity; three discs, $14.98). The films here are late '70s and '80s teen exploitation flicks, ranging from the PG-rated "Coach," with Cathy Lee Crosby as a boys basketball coach, to such R-rated fare as "My Tutor" and "My Chauffeur," low-budget flicks made before crude comedy went mainstream. Mariska Hargitay, Christopher Lee, Penn & Teller, Crispin Glover, Danny DeVito and Robert Carradine are among the familiar names here.

Extras: widescreen/full frame, 12 films

"Alien Fear Collection" (Mill Creek, 2005-09, $14.98). Four low-budget sci-fi thrillers about heroes/heroines saving the world from killer robots, super soldiers, etc.: "The Absence of Light," "Willows Way," "6 Angels" and "Exterminator City."

Extras: widescreen/full frame, four films

e-mail: hicks@desnews.com

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