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Movies: Spotlight on DVDs

300 (2-disc collector's edition)

Thankfully, "300" doesn't putter along and overextend its welcome, like other recent sword-and-sandal epics "Troy" and "Alexander." Instead, it more closely resembles two other testosterone-fueled epics that both went on to win Best Picture Oscars - "Braveheart" and "Gladiator."

It is one of those rare, ultra-violent ancient war flicks that appeals equally, if not more, to women than it does to men. Why? It includes a gripping romantic subplot and the presence of a sexy and dynamic, underdog leading man. This film is as much an erotic fantasy as it is a historical action thriller.

In my original theatrical review, I suggested some of the gaps in the plot could be solved with an extended-cut DVD. Sadly, this edition does not do the job. This is a very good movie that could and should have been a classic.

Technical specifications: aspect ratio: Widescreen (16:9); audio: English (Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround) and dubbed French; subtitles: Spanish.

Special features include:

Additional scenes

Frank Miller's vision realized on film

"'300' Spartans: Fact or Fiction?"

(Warner Bros., $34.98.)

Selected home-video releases available this week:

'Hot Fuzz'

The British madmen who brought us the zombie comedy 'Shaun of the Dead' have a go at buddy-cop action flicks with this tale that's part parody, part loving homage to police thrillers. Director Edgar Wright reteams with his 'Shaun' co-writer and star Simon Pegg, who plays a hotshot London cop exiled to a small town, where he partners with an oafish local cop ('Shaun' co-star Nick Frost) and defies his colleagues by delving into a bizarre series of 'accidental' deaths. Along with about 20 minutes of deleted scenes, the DVD features an outtake with Pegg and Frost impersonating Sean Connery and Michael Caine to act out one scene. Wright and Pegg also offer audio commentary, and the movie has a trivia track offering subtitled tidbits about the story and its actors. DVD, $29.98; HD DVD combo disc, $39.98. (Universal)

'Firehouse Dog'

This family film centers on a pampered Hollywood canine forced to live the life of an ordinary mutt after he's presumed dead in a mishap during an aerial stunt. The pooch actually ends up lost on unfamiliar turf, where he's adopted by a boy (Josh Hutcherson) and becomes a bonding force between the kid and his single dad (Bruce Greenwood), a firehouse captain. The DVD comes with deleted scenes and a range of featurettes on real-life stunt dogs, casting and other behind-the-scenes matters. The movie is available in widescreen or full-screen versions. DVD, $29.98. (20th Century Fox)

'Pathfinder'

Hollywood serves up yet another Viking-boy-raised-by-American-Indians tale. Set centuries before Columbus came to America, the action adventure stars Karl Urban as a Norse kid orphaned after his clan's ship runs aground on the shores of North America, where Indians raise him as one of their own and he eventually leads the natives' in battle against the Vikings when they return. The movie is available in the R-rated theatrical version or an unrated cut. The DVD has eight deleted scenes accompanied by commentary from director Marcus Nispel, who adds commentary for the full movie. The unrated version also includes making-of segments on costumes, sets, stunts and other topics. DVD, $29.98. (20th Century Fox)

'Film Noir Classic Collection: Vol. 4'

A boxed set rounds up 10 crime thrillers from the 1940s and '50s on five double-feature DVDs: Robert Mitchum in two pursuit tales, 'Where Danger Lives' and Don Siegel's 'The Big Steal'; 'Illegal,' starring Edward G. Robinson as an ex-prosecutor now defending sleazy clients; Farley Granger and Cathy O'Donnell in a pair of tales, 'They Live by Night' and 'Side Street'; 'Act of Violence,' director Fred Zinneman's story of old war buddies (Van Heflin and Robert Ryan) at odds; 'Mystery Street,' with Ricardo Montalban as a cop on a Cape Cod murder case; Sterling Hayden in the escaped-convict saga 'Crime Wave'; 'Decoy,' the story of an executed gangster revived by his moll; and 'Tension,' centering on a vengeful husband. The double-feature DVDs also are available separately. DVD set, $59.92; single DVDs, $20.97 each. (Warner Bros.)

'20 Million Miles to Earth: 50th Anniversary Edition'

A poor, ugly beast from Venus pays the price for humanity's scientific hubris in this 1957 sci-fi classic featuring effects master Ray Harryhausen's still-impressive stop-motion animation to bring the creature to life. William Hopper and Joan Taylor star in the story of a spaceship that crashes near Sicily on the way home from Venus, unleashing the mission's prize specimen - a frightened, scaly monster - on the Italian countryside. Harryhausen joins other effects artists on commentary, and the two-disc set also has an interview with Taylor and a conversation between Harryhausen and director Tim Burton, who made the stop-motion films 'The Nightmare Before Christmas' and 'Corpse Bride.' DVD set, $24.95. (Sony)

'Popeye the Sailor: 1933-38'

The mariner with the bulbous forearms and a taste for spinach sails again with this collection of cartoons from the Max Fleischer studio that launched the colorful seaman in the 1930s. The four-disc set contains nine hours of cartoons - 58 black-and-white shorts plus two longer color segments, featuring Popeye, his girl Olive Oyl, baby Swee'pea, the bruiser Bluto and burger-meister Wimpy. Animators, cartoon experts and others offer commentary, and the set has documentary segments on Popeye's evolution and on the Fleischer studio, plus a few non-Popeye Fleischer cartoons. DVD set, $64.92. (Warner Bros.)

TV on DVD:

'Space: 1999 - 30th Anniversary Edition' - Gerry Anderson's 1970s cult sci-fi series is back in a 17-disc set with all 48 episodes. Real-life marrieds Martin Landau and Barbara Bain star in the saga of lunar explorers hurtled into the unknown after an accident blasts the moon out of orbit. The set has cast and crew interviews plus commentary on three episodes. DVD set, $99.95. (A&E)

'Babylon 5: Lost Tales' - Bruce Boxleitner and Tracy Scoggins reunite with series creator J. Michael Straczynski for this feature-length adventure set years after events in the sci-fi series. DVD, $24.98. (Warner Bros.)

'The Archie Show: The Complete Series' - Archie, Betty, Veronica, Reggie and Jughead leap from the comic strips to TV in this 1968 cartoon series. A two-disc set has all 17 episodes. DVD set, $26.95. (Genius)

- The Associated Press