Last year there was some discussion about the battle for Eddie Murphy's creative soul, with "Dreamgirls" the angel on his shoulder and the devil taking the form of "Norbit."
That escapist comedy was even blamed for hurting Murphy's Oscar chances. (He was nominated for "Dreamgirls," but lost to Alan Arkin). His talent at playing different characters is evident in the movie. But the movie itself is pretty much a snore. (And "Dreamgirls" actually made more at the U.S. box office.)
Still, if you want "Norbit" on DVD, it will be available this week on standard DVD (Paramount/Dreamworks, $29.99) as well as high-definition HD DVD and Blu-ray versions ($39.99). And there are some decent DVD extras, including a making-of segment, deleted scenes and a look at the process of making Murphy up as different characters.
Still, for all that, I'd rather go back to see earlier Murphy, notably "Trading Places," which is coming out in a "Looking Good, Feeling Good Edition" (Paramount, $14.99 standard DVD, $29.99 in HD DVD and Blu-ray). In addition to having a movie I will never get tired of watching, it also has good extras.
The entertaining making-of piece notes that the movie was written with Richard Pryor in mind, that the studio did not want Jamie Lee Curtis (but director John Landis insisted) and that co-star Don Ameche was challenged by a scene requiring him to use the F-word. And Landis unearthed a promotional video done while the movie was in progress in which Murphy and co-star Dan Aykroyd improvise.
"Norbit," by the way, was co-written by Murphy's brother Charlie. You can catch some of his better work in the latest mining of Dave Chappelle's TV work, the 25-sketch collection "The Best of Chappelle's Show Uncensored." You can pretty well guess what's in it: Rick James, Wayne Brady ...
And, if you want to see an early influence on Eddie Murphy, check out the second "Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis Collection" (Paramount, five movies, $34.99). In fact, while Murphy's debt to Lewis is obvious, you can see that Martin had an effect as well.
A much odder form of comedy is available in "The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai" (Palm Pictures, $24.99), which includes a form of Japanese skin flick, President Bush's trigger finger, spies and the works of linguist/political analyst Noam Chomsky. Not for all tastes -- and definitely not for children -- but still weirdly watchable.
"Seinfeld" continues its DVD releases with Season 8 (Sony, 22 episodes from 1996-97, four discs, $49.95). As with past sets, this one is loaded with extras, from interviews to the text "notes about nothing" during episodes. ("Trading Places," by the way, has a similar text-trivia extra.) Telecasts from this season include "The Yada Yada," "The Bizarro Jerry," "The English Patient" and "The Comeback."
Also on the TV side is "Fail Safe" (Warner, $19.97), the 2000 live-TV production about a possible nuclear war, with George Clooney as co-star and executive producer. (You should not be surprised to know that the DVD includes a trailer for Clooney's "Ocean's 13," in theaters on Friday.) It has a good cast, but still doesn't measure up to the longer, big-screen version from 1964.
Then there's "CHiPs: The Complete First Season" (Warner, 22 episodes, six discs, $39.98). DVD extras include trivia and backstage anecdotes by star Erik Estrada.
Back to the big screen, "The Sand Pebbles" gets lavish DVD treatment in a new two-disc set (Fox, $19.98), which includes the Steve McQueen film in both a "roadshow" version -- given special theatrical showings, with reserved seats, like a stage show -- and the more widely distributed, and shorter, cut. It's one of several special releases by Fox of war movies; also getting the two-disc treatment is Gregory Peck's "Twelve O'Clock High," one of the best war movies ever made.
Down the DVD road: The second season of Ricky Gervais's "Extras" arrives July 10. ... The second season of the CW's "Supernatural" is due on Sept. 11. ... A 50th anniversary package of "20 Million Miles to Earth" is set for July 31. ... "Angels Fall" and "Montana Sky," both from Nora Roberts novels, will hit stores on Aug. 7.
(c) 2007, Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio).
Visit Akron Beacon Journal Online at http://www.ohio.com/.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
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