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Mad Hot Ballroom DVD is surprising

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

There's a pair of holiday DVDs, a great documentary and the return of the "king" in this week's stack of DVDs.

King Kong

Making its DVD debut just in time to help promote the new Peter Jackson remake is the venerable 1933 classic King Kong in a great two-disc edition.

(You can also get the same two discs in a metal "collector's" box and a special set that also includes Son of Kong and Mighty Joe Young.)

What can I say about this wonderful film? It's an ultimate adventure movie that can thrill you, frighten you and break your heart. It's a film that advanced the art and science of motion pictures. It's a film that has inspired thousands of film fans to try their hand at stop motion animation.

The genius of King Kong is that an 18-inch articulated model, painstakingly animated by Willis O'Brien, transcended just being a special effect to being a living character in the film.

The extras on this set are indeed just that. There are two outstanding documentaries on the making of King Kong as well as a commentary track featuring Ray Harryhausen, Willis O'Brien's friend and assistant, who became the star stop-motion animator through a series of films that included the Seventh Voyage of Sinbad and Clash of the Titans.

No serious film collection is complete unless it includes this disc.

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America's Funniest Home Videos: Home for the Holidays

Christmas with SCTV

This is what I learned from America's Funniest Home Videos: Home for the Holidays:

Do not try to stand on a chair near your Christmas tree. You will fall onto the tree.

Do not dress in your Santa suit. You will scare the children.

If you're an adult, don't sit in Santa's lap. You will knock him over.

Give a child the right gift and he or she will lapse into hysterics.

I'm sure there are other lessons, but these were the ones that were drummed into my head with clip after clip.

The disc has three holiday shows: an hour version with Tom Bergeron and two half-hour episodes with Bob Saget. Too many of the holiday clips repeated from one show to another and there were too many non-holiday moments on the episodes supposedly dedicated to holiday mishaps.

Oh, I learned one more thing: one Tom Bergeron is much easier to take than two outings with Saget.

While the America's Funniest Home Videos: Home for the Holidays is a marginal addition to your holiday video collection, Christmas with SCTV is a must-have if you're a fan of that television series.

Be forewarned, though, the two special Christmas episodes have already been released as part of the previous SCTV collections.

Unlike America's Funniest Home Videos: Home for the Holidays, these SCTV shows are all about the holidays and how the mythical television network programs for them. Despite the great satire and outrageous humor, there is actually real heart in these shows. I really do feel the Christmas spirit when Santa gives the drunken and frozen Johnny LaRue (John Candy) a camera crane.

Honest I do.

Both DVDs are from Shout Factory and for more information you can log onto

Mad Hot Ballroom

At a time when so much negative news flows from the nation's public school systems, here is a story that is genuinely uplifting.

In New York City, fifth graders can participate in a ballroom dancing class that culminates in a city-wide contest. One might think that, in this time, 11 year-olds wouldn't be interested in a dusty cultural institution such as ballroom dance, but these kids take pride in learning the foxtrot, the tango and the merengue, among others.

There is more than just the physical task of learning how to dance. These lessons teach teamwork, manners and culture. The students learn where the dances originated and have an appreciation for their formalities.

Contrasted with the footage of the kids dancing are interviews that show just what fifth-graders think about when they're not in school. To hear a kid worry about drugs on the street is sobering, to say the least.

This is an outstanding film which made me wonder if schools here could start a similar program.

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Spike and Mike's Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation: Contagious

Oh how I wish I could write something positive about this "new" collection of outrageous, shocking and sickening animated shorts, but I can't. This DVD features way too many lame and flat out dumb shorts as well as ones that have been seen before.

Spike and Mike were the producers who first discovered Mike Judge, the creator of Beavis & Butthead and King of the Hill, but their track record since then hasn't been that great.

Although there are a couple of shorts that are amusing, most are just exercises in low-grade sexual and scatological humor.

Animation fans should steer clear of this disc.

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