Get your serial anti-terrorist thrills in the fifth season of `24'

Critic's Picks: New DVDs

December 03, 2006

24 SEASON FIVE -- Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment -- $59.98

The anti-terrorist thriller enjoyed its largest audience ever last season as Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) returned to Los Angeles and CTU after 18 months living on the run under assumed identities.

Certainly, no other series got off to a bigger bang than 24 did with the assassination of former President David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert) in the opening seconds. The season also ended with a nifty twist, with Bauer being kidnapped by Chinese agents for his all-but-forgotten role in a killing at China's U.S. Embassy.

The DVD scheduled for release Tuesday serves as an instant reminder of how perfectly this series -- with each season structured as the 24 hours in one day in Bauer's life -- suits a format that allows back-to-back viewing of episodes.

Special features

Last year, I fell for the DVD's much-hyped prequel to the forthcoming season.

Not this year. The Toyota product placement is almost too much to take. Besides, last year's prequel ultimately had almost nothing to do with the season's real story arc.

But there is informative commentary from cast and crew on selected episodes. The very best is provided by Jon Cassar, the executive producer and director most responsible for the series' narrative firepower.

There is also a standout featurette in "Unsung Heroes: The 24 Camera Department," with Rodney Charters, director of photography, explaining how the look and feel of the show is created.

DAVID ZURAWIK

david.zurawik@baltsun.com

ALSO ANTICIPATED

MIAMI VICE: UNRATED DIRECTOR'S EDITION --Universal Studios Home Entertainment -- $29.98

No other 2006 DVD conveys the contemporary filmmaking excitement of Miami Vice: Unrated Director's Edition. It brings home just how personal a "franchise" movie can be when you put it in the hands of an artist such as writer-director Michael Mann. This movie's after-life may outdistance Mann's smash '80s TV series of the same name (which had vastly different versions of the same characters).

Colin Farrell plays Sonny Crockett as a Byronic figure whose combination of heart and chutzpah gets the better of him, and Jamie Foxx plays Ricardo Tubbs as a crime-fighting ace with a sixth sense for threats against women and an ability to read confusion in a partner's closed-up face. Mann plunks them down in a global-trafficking plot that makes Miami a mere planet in a corrupt solar system revolving around Ciudad del Este, the spot where Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina meet.

Special features

Mann's audio commentary, a documentary about re-visualizing Miami Vice, and a string of featurettes about topics such as firearms training and location shooting testify to the writer-director's obsessive connection to every aspect of the picture. Mann's extended version goes beyond "personal" to "intimate" -- and moves with an urgent liquidity that begins with a super-swift boat race seen from underwater.

MICHAEL SRAGOW

michael.sragow@baltsun.com

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