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Playing it straight Shyamalan thriller succeeds, but don't look for a twist

M. Night Shyamalan did it to himself.

When he jumped out of the starting gate and straight into fame with his supernatural blockbuster "The Sixth Sense," most audiences expected all of his films to carry the same intensity, magic and, of course, the clever twist.

So instead of watching his movies for what they are (good, sometimes great, thrillers with a "Twilight Zone" bent), many watch just to try and guess the twist, often leading to disappointment.

Shyamalan's most recent film, "The Happening" ($29.98, Fox Home Entertainment, available now), doesn't have a twist. And if you're familiar with the cautionary film theme of nature rebelling against humans, then you have the general idea of the story.

In an interview on the DVD, Shyamalan said he wanted "The Happening" to be "the greatest B-movie you've ever seen."

He succeeded. In fact, "The Happening" is a grade-A B-movie in which a mysterious airborne threat causes people to commit suicide. Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel and John Leguizamo are among those trying to outrace the wind and the danger it carries in this taut thriller.

Bonus material includes a short making-of documentary; deleted scenes with introductions by Shyamalan; a gag reel; and featurettes that look at the graphic (violent) effect shots, the elements of planning an elaborate scene (in this case, the car crash suicide) and a day in the life of Shyamalan on the set.

If you're wondering about the crazy lady who shows up toward the end, check out the featurette "I Hear You Whispering." Shyamalan calls this portion of the film "a mini 25-minute movie of a crazy woman." (Tony Award-winning actress Betty Buckley eloquently understates her character's mental state when she says, "She means well, but Mrs. Jones has problems.")

The Blu-ray disc ($39.98) also has a digital copy of the movie and such featurettes as the special wind effects.

*Disney's home video operation is doing a wonderful job of "going into the vault," as they say, and releasing classic films in special editions overflowing with bonus features. The latest is "Sleeping Beauty: 50th Anniversary Platinum Edition" (two-disc standard DVD $29.99, Blu-ray $35.99; available now).

The bonus features are made with a variety of ages in mind. The kids will enjoy "Princess Fun Facts"; a Disney song selection with the option of having the words on screen; a "Fun With English Game" that's meant to be played by the very youngest viewers; "Briar Rose's Enchanted Dance Game"; and a music video by Emily Osment.

Viewers with a creative bent will want to watch "Four Artists Paint a Tree," a classic feature with four Disney animators, including Eyvind Earle, painting the same tree with different results; a feature on Earle, who was the stylist on "Sleeping Beauty"; storyboard sequences; and art galleries.

The new 40-minute documentary "Picture Perfect: The Making of Sleeping Beauty" is nicely done and informative as it details how "Sleeping Beauty" differred from other Disney features and also marked the end of an era in movie animation.

"The Peter Tchaikovsky Story," which aired on the Disney TV series in 1959, tells the story (in pure Disney fashion) about composer Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky and how he came to write his "Sleeping Beauty" ballet.

Also included: commentaries; four deleted songs; an alternate opening culled from recently discovered storyboards that were made in 1952; and "Grand Canyon," the Oscar-winning short that accompanied "Sleeping Beauty" on its original release.

The Blu-ray set also has what is being called an "industry first": a standard-definition DVD, as well as a Blu-ray version. Also included: a feature on restoring the soundtrack; a picture-in-picture commentary with John Lasseter, Andreas Deja and Leonard Maltin; a "Maleficent's Challenge" game; and the Disney BD-Live Network.


Coming Tuesday

"Alfred Hitchcock Premiere Collection" (MGM), "Capricorn One: Special Edition" (Lionsgate), "Chaplin: 15th Anniversary" (Lionsgate), "Mongol" (Warner), "The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: A Veggie Tales Movie" (Universal) and "Standard Operating Procedure" (Universal).

TV: "Back to You: Season One" (Fox), "Quark: The Complete Series" (Sony), "Rules of Engagement: The Complete Second Season" (Sony), "The Unit: Season Three" (Fox) and "The Universe" (A&E).


DVD Extra

"The Munsters: The Complete Series" -- Join Herman and the family from 1313 Mockingbird Lane for some frightful fun. The 12 disc-set has all 70 episodes, plus the full-length movies, "Munster, Go Home" and "The Munsters Revenge." ($69.98, Universal. Available now.)


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