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DVD 'EARTH' AS NEVER BEFORE SEEN.

Byline: Rob Lowman

Entertainment Editor

As fabulous as Discovery Channel's version of "Planet Earth" is, the BBC DVD set of the ambitious nature documentary is even more so.

From the creators of the award-winning "Blue Planet: Seas of Life" documentary series, "Planet Earth" offers some of the most extraordinary scenes of the nature world -- from a 10-mile-across swarm of locusts to the rarely scene snow leopard hunting, and a polar bear and her cubs emerging from four months in a snow-covered den.

Shot in high-definition with high-powered lenses so the photographers didn't disturb the animals, action can be slowed down to show you the impact -- such as a great white shark flying out of the water to grab its prey -- a seal -- or the camera can pull back, allowing perspective and showing the majesty of the view, such as a mountain goat in the Rockies, or a pack of wolves running down a herd of caribou.

The 11-part series benefits from narration by naturalist Sir David Attenborough, an old hand at such things, having written, narrated and taken part in a number of nature documentaries ("Life on Earth," "The Life of Birds") himself. (The narration on the American version by Sigourney Weaver was criticized for being overdramatic and a bit simplistic.) The segments are organized into 50-minute episodes that cover specific geographical regions and wildlife -- mountains, fresh water, caves, deserts, ice worlds, great plains, jungles, etc.

It begins with "From Pole to Pole," which gives a general overview of the series.

It's impossible to describe the stunning photography in this series. Suffice it to say, the "Planet Earth" crew captured some of the most amazing and unprecedented footage you will ever see. Given the fragile nature of the planet, which went from a population of 1 billion people at the beginning of the last century to more than 6 billion at the end, and the number of species on the verge of distinction, there may never be an opportunity to film some of these events again.

"Planet Earth" has no overt political agenda, except for an obvious respect for the splendor of the planet that we depend on. The sight of massive flocks of snow geese migrating, giant redwoods, coral reefs, immense caves and animals struggling for survival should inspire awe.

The series, with its striking score by George Fenton, looks amazing, even if you don't have a HD player. (It's being offered in both HD and Blu-ray.) And the BBC version has 90 minutes of footage not seen in America. The set also includes the 110-minute "Planet Earth Diaries," which shows how the crew filmed some of the amazing moments, such as "Chandelier Ballroom," a crystal-encrusted cavern found more than a mile deep in New Mexico's dangerous Lechuguilla, the deepest cave in the continental United States.

Finally, as part of the set, there's "Planet Earth: The Future," a 150-minute companion series in which a number of experts discuss issues of conservation and protection of delicate ecosystems. As Attenborough notes about the future of our world, "The choice is ours."

I admit I have a few prejudices when it comes to "The Queen." First, Helen Mirren can do no wrong, and she was perfect in the film about Queen Elizabeth II's reaction to the death of her former daughter-in-law, the beloved Princess Diana.

Second, director Stephen Frears ("The Grifters" "Dangerous Liaisons") always delivers craftily intelligent films. He did here with a smart script for Peter Morgan ("The Last King of Scotland"), which opens the doors to behind-the-scenes craziness as the queen can't understand the fuss.

Third, I can't understand how the royals continue to exist in Britain. So it's hard to have much empathy for Elizabeth II, although Mirren is so brilliant in her cool, don't-cry-for-me performance that you almost do. And that is part of the brilliance of the film, which dissects the political times, focusing on Elizabeth's relationship with the newly elected prime minister, Tony Blair (Michael Sheen), who contradicts her staid dowdiness with his flashy, touchy-feely style.

As Elizabeth begins to realize that the tide is against her -- that the people's (and Blair's) sympathies are with Diana, who she never liked -- she reluctantly makes a statement. But Frears and Morgan aren't looking to turn Elizabeth into a sympathetic figure or someone to revile. Instead, "The Queen" is a sly, telling political portrait, although I still think the Brits could have taken a cue from us and saved themselves some trouble back in the 18th century. The DVD offers commentary by Frears and Morgan.

You can bet when director Tony Scott and producer Jerry Bruckheimer get together, there will be explosions, and so it is in the serviceable action flick "Deja Vu." It stars Denzel Washington as Doug Carlin, an agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives investigating the terrorist bombing of a ferry in New Orleans.

As you might expect, action takes precedence over logic -- so don't expect things to make a lot of sense in this time-wrinkle thriller as Doug falls for one of the victims through techies who can see into the past. Scott and Bruckheimer have done better films ("Enemy of the State"), but "Deja Vu" will do for an undemanding evening.

TELEVISION

The Discovery Channel premiere of James Cameron's "The Lost Tomb of Jesus" drew of lot of interest. The DVD includes 15 minutes of new footage. Is it any more convincing? Probably not, depending upon where you come down on the ideas that Jesus didn't die, that he was married to Mary Magdalene and that they had a couple of kids. "Lost Tomb" does manage to be provocative.

"NCIS Naval Criminal Investigative Service -- The Complete Third Season" signaled a change in the series, with its original female agent having been killed off at the end of season two. Replacing her is Ziva David (Cote de Pablo), a former Mossad agent. The likable crew led by Mark Harmon as former Marine Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon), as chief investigator, didn't miss a beat.

And it's the interaction of the team -- special agent Anthony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly), goth-girl forensics expert Abby Sciuto (Pauley Perrette), geek agent Tim McGee (Sean Murray) and coroner Donald "Ducky" Mallard (David McCallum) -- that sets "NCIS" apart.

There are already a number of people up in arms over the release of "WKRP in Cincinnati: The Complete First Season." That's because most of the songs that originally aired have been replaced because of the costs to put them on the DVD.

Though I was not a particular fan of the TV version of "The Odd Couple," I appreciated old pros Jack Klugman and Tony Randall in the roles of Oscar and Felix. The first season of the series is out today.

Rob Lowman (818) 713-3687

robert.lowman@dailynews.com

Rooney more than a 'Museum' piece

Ask 86-year-old Mickey Rooney the secret to his longevity and, in a strong and firm voice, he says, "Breathing."

After a pause for a chuckle, he adds, "And staying healthy. I think the good lord controls that."

Well, in acting (and life), timing is everything, and Rooney should know. He began his career in 1925 -- still the silent era -- as a child star. More than 80 years later, he's still on screen making people laugh. His latest role is that of a feisty security guard in the big hit of the 2006 holiday season, "Night at the Museum," out on DVD today.

"Museum" stars Ben Stiller as the new night watchman at the natural history museum, where the exhibits -- including a statue of Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams) -- come to life. Rooney, Dick Van Dyke and Bill Cobb play the retiring watchmen, who have a few nefarious plans of their own before they leave.

For Rooney, who has received four Oscar nominations in his career as well as an honorary one in 1983, it was a bit of old times. Van Dyke ("He's such a nice person") and Rooney, who has been in more than 300 films, had worked together nearly 40 years ago, in the 1969 film "The Comic," directed by Carl Reiner. And he knew the 41-year-old Stiller's parents -- Anne Meara (who has a cameo in the film) and Jerry Stiller -- years before Ben was born.

"Ben is fun to be with, and Robin is something special. -- It was fun to work with everybody," he says about his co-stars. "We had a lot of fun making the picture -- and that's a secret, too, of a good picture."

The old pro Rooney, who received one of his Oscar noms for the 1979 family film "The Black Stallion," is also quick to compliment the people behind the scenes. "People don't realize how many people it takes to make what you're seeing on the screen ... they are the real stars -- the people who help make what you see."

When we talked, Rooney had just gotten back from New York City, where "Night at the Museum's" T-Rex "Rexy" was introduced. It arrives today at its new home, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, after a seven-day cross-country road trip.

There's also a DVD-launch party tonight, which Rooney is expected to attend, at the museum where the 1-ton, 21-foot-long, 13-foot-tall T-rex skeleton prop will be on display, along with other props from the movie.

Though the Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning actor said he wasn't at liberty to say what his next screen project is, he and his wife, Jan, will again be taking their "Let's Put on a Show" cabaret revue on the road, as well as doing work for Girls and Boys Town, of which he is honorary mayor for life.

He and his wife are also "going to try to get some people together" to try to revive the Hollywood Christmas Parade, which, according to a recent announcement, is ceasing operation. (Rooney, by the way, has four stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.)

"Why should it end?" he asks with determination. "Why should good things have to end?"

-- R.L.

the list

"The Queen" (Fox; $29.99, $34.99

Blu-ray)

"Night at the Museum (Fox; $29.98 for single disc, $34.98 for two-disc special edition; $39.98 Blu-ray)

"Deja Vu" (Buena Vista; $24.99, $34.99 Blu-ray)

"Thr3e" (Fox; $26.98)

"Al Franken -- God Spoke" (Docurama; $26.95)

"10 Items or Less" (First Look; $24.98)

"Slingshot" (Weinstein; $21.99)

TELEVISION

"Planet Earth -- The Complete BBC Series" (BBC Warner; $79.98, $99.98 for Blu-ray or HD)

"NCIS Naval Criminal Investigative Service -- The Complete Third Season" (Paramount; $64.99)

"Columbo -- Mystery Movie Collection" (Universal; $26.98)

"WKRP in Cincinnati: The Complete First Season" (Fox; $39.98)

"The Odd Couple -- The First Season" (Paramount; $38.99)

"One Day at a Time -- The Complete First Season" (Columbia; $29.95)

"Kidnapped -- The Complete Series" (Columbia; $49.95)

"Ironside -- The Complete First Season" (Shout Factory; $59.98)

"The Drew Carey Show -- The Complete First Season" (Warner; $39.98)

"Flipper -- The Original Series, Season 1" (MGM; $39.98)

"The Lost Tomb of Jesus" (Koch; $24.98)

"The Fabulous Sixties" (MPI; $39.98)

"The Good Soldier" (Acorn; $24.99)

OLDER FILMS

"Harry and the Hendersons -- Special Edition" (Universal; $14.99)

"Parenthood -- Special Edition" (Universal; $19.98)

"Jean Renoir Collection" (Lionsgate; $29.98)

"Jane Eyre" (Fox; $19.98)

"James Cagney -- The Signature Collection" ("The Bride Came C.O.D."/ "Captains of the Clouds"/ "The Fighting 69th"/ "Torrid Zone"/ "The West Point Story") (Warner; $49.98)

"The Documentaries of Louis Malle -- Eclipse Series 2" ("Vive le Tour" / "Humain, Trop Humain" / "Place de la R(hrt)publique" / "Phantom India" / "Calcutta" / "God's Country ... of Happiness") (Criterion; $79.95)

"Les Miserables -- 1935 & 1952" (Fox; $19.98)

"Anna Karenina" (Fox; $19.98)

"Essential Classics -- American Musicals" ("The Music Man" / "Meet Me in St. Louis" / "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers") (Warner; $30.98)

"Essential Classics -- Romances" ("Gone With the Wind" / "Casablanca" / "Doctor Zhivago") (Warner; $30.98)

SPECIAL INTEREST

"Shiva Rea -- Fluid Power: Vinyasa Flow Yoga" (Acorn; $19.99)

"Steven Wright: When the Leaves Blow Away" (Image; $14.99)

"New York Yankees 1977 World Series Collector's Edition" (A&E; $69.99)

"Moody Blues: Classic Artists" (Image; $24)

"Lisa Gerrard: Sanctuary" (Milan; $19.97)

CAPTION(S):

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(1 -- 6) no caption (dvds)

(7) no caption (Mickey Rooney)
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Apr 24, 2007
Words:2043
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