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Top DVDs at great prices

Category: Childrens DVDs

Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire [2005] (buy now)

Price: £5.47

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Star Wars Trilogy (Episodes IV-VI) [1977] (buy now)

Four-disc set includes:

  • Episode IV, A New Hope (Special Edition)--with commentary by George Lucas, Ben Burtt, Dennis Muren and Carrie Fisher; Easter egg: credit roll (2 min)
  • Episode V, The Empire Strikes Back (Special Edition)--with commentary by George Lucas, Irvin Kershner, Lawrence Kasdan, Ben Burtt, Dennis Muren and Carrie Fisher; Easter egg: credit roll (2 min)
  • Episode VI, Return of the Jedi (Special Edition)--commentary by George Lucas, Lawrence Kasdan, Ben Burtt, Dennis Muren and Carrie Fisher; Easter egg: credit roll (2 min)
  • Bonus disc: all-new bonus features, including the most comprehensive feature-length documentary ever produced on the Star Wars saga, and never-before-seen footage from the making of all three films
Subitles (all material across all four discs): English, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish

Click here to see detailed information on the special features included on the bonus disc.

Amazon.co.uk Review

George Lucas's original Star Wars trilogy is a clever synthesis of pop-cultural and mythological references, taking classic fairy-tale themes, adding more than a dash of Arthurian legend, and providing cinematic high adventure inspired as much by Kurosawa's Samurai epics as by Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers. As a result, audiences of all ages can find something to identify with in Luke Skywalker's journey from disaffected teenager dreaming of adventure to Jedi Knight and saviour of the galaxy. He not only rescues a Princess, but discovers she's a close relative. And if there's a lesson to be gleaned from the Skywalker clan, it's that no matter how bad things get in the average dysfunctional family, it's never too late for reconciliation.

Originally released in 1977, Star Wars, the first film, was made as a standalone. Perhaps that's why Obi-Wan Kenobi seems a tad inconsistent in his attitude towards his old pupil Anakin Skywalker, and perhaps also why Luke is allowed to develop a guilt-free crush on Princess Leia. Lucas's story, told from the point of view of the two bickering droids (a device taken from Kurosawa's Hidden Fortress), also borrows freely from Errol Flynn's Robin Hood, as does John Williams's seminal Korngold-inspired music score.

Thanks in equal part to Leigh Brackett's screenplay and Irvin Kershner's direction The Empire Strikes Back (1980) is the most grown-up instalment in the series. The basic fairy-tale is developed and expanded, with the principal characters experiencing emotional turmoil--blossoming romance, mixed feelings and confused loyalties--amid a very real threat of annihilation as Darth Vader's motivations become chillingly personal. Luke's quasi-Arthurian destiny is complicated still further by the half-truths of his wizardly mentors; and swashbuckler Han Solo finds the past catching up with him, quite literally in the form of bounty hunter Boba Fett. The film is graced by more fabulous landscapes (ice, forest, clouds), more unforgettable new characters (Yoda), more groundbreaking special effects (the asteroid chase), and John Williams's finest score.

The difficult third film, 1983's Return of the Jedi, seems schizophrenic in its intentions, hoping to please both the kiddies who bought all the toys and an older audience who appreciated the narrative's epic and mythological strands. The result is a film that splits awkwardly into two. One thread, which might be subtitled "The Redemption of Anakin Skywalker", pursues the story of the Skywalker family to a cathartic conclusion. The other thread, which might be described as "The Care Bears Go to War", attempts to say something profound about primitivism versus technological sophistication, but just gets silly as furry midgets doing Tarzan whoops defeat the Emperor's crack legions.

In 1997 Lucas re-released the three original films in digitally remastered "Special Edition" versions, in which many scenes have been restored and enhanced (some would say "unnecessarily tinkered with"). Despite loud and continued criticisms from fans, these Special Editions are now considered definitive, if only by Lucasfilm. --Mark Walker

Price: £13.97

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Happy Feet [2006] (buy now)

For anyone who thought the Oscar-winning documentary March of the Penguins was the most marvelous cinematic moment for these nomads of the south, you haven't seen nothing yet. Here's an animated wonder about a penguin named Mumble who can't sing, but can dance up a storm. George Miller, the driving force behind the Babe (and Mad Max) movies, takes another creative step in family entertainment with this big, beautiful, music-fueled film that will have kids and their parents dancing in the streets. From his first moment alive, Mumble (voiced by Elijah Woods) feels the beat and can't stop dancing. Unfortunatly, emperor penguins are all about finding their own heart song, and dancing youngster--as cute as he is--is a misfit. Luckily, he bumps into little blue penguins, a Spanish-infused group (led by Robin Williams) and begins a series of adventures. Miller has an exceptional variety of entertainment, Busby Berkley musical numbers, amusement park thrills, exciting chase sequences (seals and orca lovers might like think otherwise), and even an environmental message that doesn't weigh you down. Best of all, you don't know where the movie is going in the last act, a rare occurrence these days in family entertainment. A fusion of rock songs, mashed up and otherwise are featured; this movie is as much a musical as a comedy. Mumble's solo dance to a new version of Stevie Wonder's "I Wish" by Fantasia, Patti and Yolanda may be the most joyful moment on camera in 2006. --Doug Thomas

Price: £5.97

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Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban [2004] (buy now)

Adapted from JK Rowling's third novel, this installment of the family fantasy adventure story finds trainee wizard Harry Potter (played by Daniel Radcliffe) and his best friends Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint), facing the dangerous convict Sirius Black (played by Gary Oldman). Black has escaped from Azkaban Prison and is on his way to Hogwarts, so the school calls in supernatural assistance in the form of Dementors -- but will they turn out to be a great help or a further threat?

The first of the Harry Potter films to be directed by acclaimed Mexican film director Alfonso Cuarón, Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban is generally regarded as the most stylised and darkest entry in the series thus far. It stars the actors from the preceding films in the series, except for the role of Albus Dumbledore, which sees Michael Gambon take over from the late Richard Harris. Much of the original crew also returned, including screenwriter Steve Kloves.

The film broke several opening records around the world upon its release, including the top opening film in UK film history, and made approximately £20m in its first three days, totaling £90.3m in ten days.

Price: £5.47

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The Queen [2006] (buy now)

Helen Mirren reigns supreme in The Queen, a witty and ingenious look at a moment that rocked the house of Windsor: the week that followed the sudden death of Princess Diana in 1997. Diana's death came at just the same time that Prime Minister Tony Blair (played by the bright Michael Sheen) was settling into his new government--and trying to figure out the delicate relationship between 10 Downing Street and Queen Elizabeth II (Mirren). A large portion of the British population was trying to figure out the Windsors that week, as Elizabeth remained stiff-upper-lip and largely mum about the death of the beloved princess. In Peter Morgan's skillful script, we watch as Blair grows increasingly impatient with the Royals, who are sequestered in their Scottish estate while the public demands some show of grief. Prince Philip (James Cromwell, in good form) clumsily decides to take Diana's sons hunting, while a sympathetically-treated Prince Charles (Alex Jennings) displays some frustration with his mother's eerie calm.

None of this conveys how funny the film is, or how deftly it flows from one scene to the next. Director Stephen Frears (Dirty Pretty Things) deserves great credit for that, and for the performances, and for the movie's marvelous sense of well-roundedness; you could see this movie and groan at the cluelessness of the Royals and their outmoded existence, or you might just sympathise with showing reserve in a world that values gross public displays of emotion. But either way, you'll marvel at Mirren, who makes the Queen far more alert and human than one might ever have imagined. --Robert Horton

Price: £8.98

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Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone [2001] (buy now)

As the first Harry Potter film of the celebrated series, this is a must for ardent fans and newcomers to the global fantasy phenomenon. An adaptation of J. K. Rowling's enchanting, funny debut novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (known as the Sorcerer's Stone in the US), it's our first big-screen encounter with the series' well-loved characters and the goings-on at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

We meet orphan Harry Potter (played by a young Daniel Radcliffe) while he's as yet unaware of his magical powers and is living a miserable existence with his horrible Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia. A mysterious letter arrives, delivered by the friendly giant Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane in fine acting form), inviting Harry to study at the exclusive Hogwarts School and he soon discovers his true heritage as the son of a wizard and a witch. He's also gained widespread notoriety, being the only survivor of an attack by the evil wizard Voldemort that killed both his parents. The film explores Harry's growing realisation that there are two worlds: the non-magical world of humans, called "Muggles", in which he used to reside and the magical fantasy world of wizardry that is his destiny.

The greatest strength of the film comes from its faithfulness to the novel, and this new cinematic world is filled with all the details of Rowling's imagination, thanks to exuberant sets, elaborate costumes, clever makeup and visual effects, and a crème de la crème cast, including Maggie Smith, Richard Harris, Alan Rickman and more. Especially fine is the interplay between Harry and his new schoolmates Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) as they club together to fight the forces of evil. --Sally Giles

Price: £5.47

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Star Wars Episode 3 : Revenge of the Sith (2 Disc Edition) [2005] (buy now)

Ending the most popular film epic in history, Star Wars: Episode III, Revenge of the Sith is an exciting, uneven, but ultimately satisfying journey. Picking up the action from Episode II, Attack of the Clones as well as the animated Clone Wars series, Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and his apprentice, Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen), pursue General Grievous into space after the droid has kidnapped Supreme Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid). It's just the latest manoeuvre in the on-going Clone Wars between the Republic and the Separatist forces led by former Jedi turned Sith Lord Count Dooku (Christopher Lee). On another front, Master Yoda (voiced by Frank Oz) leads the Republic's clone troops against a droid attack on the Wookiee homeworld of Kashyyyk. All this is in the first half of Episode III, which feels a lot like Episodes I and II. That means spectacular scenery, dazzling dogfights in space, a new fearsome villain (the CGI-created Grievous can't match up to either Darth Maul or the original Darth Vader, though), lightsaber duels, groan-worthy romantic dialogue, goofy humor (but at least it's left to the droids instead of Jar-Jar Binks), and hordes of faceless clone troopers fighting hordes of faceless battle droids.

But then it all changes.

After setting up characters and situations for the first two and a half movies, Episode III finally comes to life. The Sith Lord in hiding unleashes his long-simmering plot to take over the Republic, and an integral part of that plan is to turn Anakin away from the Jedi and toward the Dark Side of the Force. Unless you've been living under a rock the last 10 years, you know that Anakin will transform into the dreaded Darth Vader and face an ultimate showdown with his mentor, but that doesn't matter. In fact, a great part of the fun is knowing where things will wind up but finding out how they'll get there. The end of this prequel trilogy also should inspire fans to want to see the original movies again, but this time not out of frustration at the new ones. Rather, because Episode III is a beginning as well as an end, it will trigger fond memories as it ties up threads to the originals in tidy little ways. But best of all, it seems like for the first time we actually care about what happens and who it happens to.

Episode III is easily the best of the new trilogy--OK, so that's not saying much, but it might even jockey for third place among the six Star Wars films. It's also the first one to be rated PG-13 for the intense battles and darker plot. It was probably impossible to live up to the decades' worth of pent-up hype George Lucas faced for the Star Wars prequel trilogy (and he tried to lower it with the first two movies), but Episode III makes us once again glad to be "a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away." --David Horiuchi, Amazon.com

Price: £4.98

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Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets [2002] (buy now)

Price: £5.47

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Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones [2002] (buy now)

The most densely plotted instalment of the saga so far, Attack of the Clones is a tale of both Machiavellian political drama and doomed romance; it's epic war film and silly comic-book fantasy combined, as teenage Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) chafes at the restrictions imposed by his mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and falls in love with Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman). Renegade Jedi Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) is leading a breakaway federation of disgruntled systems; while the insidious influence of Darth Sidious is felt rather than seen as his invisible hand guides apparently unrelated events, from Jar Jar's unwitting instigation of a disastrous Senate decision to bounty hunter Jango Fett's revelatory role at the centre of the conspiracy.

Along the way the story has fun with the conventions of Chandleresque detective fiction as Obi-Wan explores the seedier side of Coruscant, and incorporates the noble warrior ethos of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in its portrayal of the Jedi order. The portentous tone is lightened by tongue-in-cheek self-referential dialogue and the antics of robotic clowns R2D2 and C3PO. (One niggle for music fans, though, is the cavalier cut-and-paste approach to John Williams's music score.) Like the Empire Strikes Back, Clones is the bridging film of the trilogy and thus ends on an equivocally bittersweet note.

On the DVD: Attack of the Clones is an all-digital film, and so looks suitably superb in this anamorphic widescreen transfer, accompanied by a THX encoded Dolby 5.1 soundtrack. Anyone who owns The Phantom Menace two-disc set will know what to expect from the special features: here's another group commentary led by George Lucas, two lengthy documentaries on the digital effects ("From Puppets to Pixels" and "The Previsualisation of Episode II") plus several other featurettes and Web documentaries, notably "Films Are Not Released, They Escape", a look at the sound design. There's also a fun trailer for the R2-D2 mockumentary "Beneath the Dome", trailers, photo galleries and more to satisfy any Star Wars fan. --Mark Walker

Price: £6.97

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Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace [1999] (buy now)

George Lucas transports audiences back to the future with Star Wars: Episode I, The Phantom Menace, the first instalment of a prequel trilogy in which the director imagines the foundation for the entire six-part saga. Reflecting the symbolic and mythological bases of at least five story arcs, The Phantom Menace wields a newly emerged, youthful vibrancy courtesy of Lucas' invigorating return to the director's chair and his healthy respect for the emotional sources of fantasy. Despite receiving a storm of adverse criticism (notably for Jar Jar Binks) Lucas continually fascinates with his ability to place his characters--some new, some old, some CGI--in the same dramatic situations posed in the original trilogy: whether it be the juxtaposition of primitives with technologically advanced societies or the timeless battle between good and evil, the very familiarity of these recurring scenarios and rhythms galvanises the viewer. Of course, the state-of-the-art visual effects contribute mightily to the final impact. Much has been written about the kinetic Pod Race sequence (compared favourably with the chariot race in Ben Hur) and the War and Peace-style military battles, but even these events are upstaged by the new planetary vistas: consider the Romanesque grandeur of Naboo, the underwater city of Otoh Gunga illuminated by Art Nouveau lamps, the decadent brio of Tatooine, or the dizzying skyscrapers of the city planet Coruscant (imagine Blade Runner in daylight). Despite the beauty of his iridescent images, Lucas exercises discipline, cutting fast within frames filled with rich detail and activity. As a result, The Phantom Menace lends itself to repeated viewings.

On the DVD: This spectacular two-disc DVD set was certainly worth the wait. Simply put, this is the most comprehensive packaging of supplementary materials so far assembled for DVD. Most importantly, Lucas film offers an anamorphic, 2.35:1 film transfer and a highly active Dolby 5.1 audio mix. Disc 1 includes an insightful commentary with Lucas--his first for DVD--and other key personnel, making for a great tour. The bulk of extra treasures can be found on Disc 2, including seven deleted scenes completed just for this set that possess the same quality as the film; in fact, some moments (the "Air Bus Taxi" and "Pod Race Grid" sequences) are so good that Lucas reincorporated them into the film proper. Viewers can also enjoy no less than 12 Web documentaries, five informative featurettes, the popular John Williams music video "Duel of the Fates" and numerous galleries of stills, trailers and television spots. Better yet, Lucas premieres "The Beginning," a 66-minute documentary edited from hundreds of hours of behind-the-scenes footage. This is not your standard-issue studio documentary, instead "The Beginning" is an Oscar-worthy, cinema verityé-style exploration of the creative process behind every aspect of the film's production. One of the most memorable moments involves a late-day visit to the set by Steven Spielberg: watching Lucas and Spielberg behave like kids in a candy store is one more reminder why the Star Wars saga remains enduringly popular. --Kevin Mulhall

Price: £12.98

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Tom And Jerry - Classic Collection - Vol. 1 (buy now)

Price: £5.47

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Arthur and the Invisibles [2007] (buy now)

First released in France, Luc Besson's Arthur and the Invisibles is a touching computer animated adventure that makes up in look and in character for what it lacks in narrative originality. As a direct hybrid of Excalibur and A Bug's Life, Arthur stars a heroic ten year-old, Arthur (Freddie Highmore), who draws a sword from a stone to fight a miniature battle in the garden before finding treasure valuable enough to save his grandfather's farm from purchase by developers. Arthur's grandfather, Archibald, having long ago discovered the miniscule world of Minimoys, garden gnome-like elves that lived in his yard, shrunk himself in order to hunt elusive rubies that were hidden in their evil Mecropolis, headed by Maltazard (David Bowie). Now Arthur must assist the benevolent Minimoy clan, ruled by The King (Robert De Niro) and Princess Selenia (Madonna), in challenging Maltazard for possession of the jewels. Shots taking the viewer down through grass blades into the microscopic, yet gigantic yard world readjust one's sense of size, as do scenes, for example, in which a small, elven Arthur fights mosquitoes with catapulted tomatoes. Meanwhile, live action scenes of Arthur's worried grandmother (Mia Farrow) provide respite from a completely computerized world. Bowie, as he did in Legend, steals the show, bringing to life his Darth Vader-like character who chose evil over good in a past adventure. Corny one-liners sometimes spoil the mood, but overall the film's thematic blend of fantasy and environmentalism, like Princess Mononoke, will delight children with its positive message. --Trinie Dalton

Price: £12.98

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High School Musical (Encore Edition) [2006] (buy now)

The Disney Channel's High School Musical is a combination of backstage action and Grease without the unwholesome habits. Scoring record ratings at the time of its January 2006 broadcast, it's a smash hit with tween audiences (ages 6 to 10), but appealing for all ages. At a New Year's Eve party, Troy (Zac Efron) has a chance meeting with Gabriella (Vanessa Anne Hudgens) when they share a karaoke song. Lo and behold, when school resumes, they discover that Gabriella has just transferred to Troy's East High School, a campus divided into tight cliques of jocks, cheerleaders, brainiacs, and skater dudes. Eager to recapture the magic they'd discovered during karaoke, Troy and Gabriella consider auditioning for the school's upcoming musical, much to the dismay of the school's frost queen/theater goddess, Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale). Problem is, Troy is also the star of the basketball team and Gabrielle is being recruited to compete in the Scholastic Decathlon. Will they give up their cliques to start something new, or will they do as the show's first big anthem urges and "Stick to the Status Quo"? Well, this is a Disney movie, so maybe the sacrifices won't be that hard, and even the hints of romance are mild.

The bestselling soundtrack is catchy in that Disney-pop kind of way, mixing in a dash of hip-hop ("Getcha Head in the Game," punctuated by squeaky basketball shoes and other sound effects), salsa ("Bop to the Top"), and the endearingly hammy ("What I've Been Looking For" performed by Sharpay and her brother, Ryan, played by Lucas Gabreel). It's not hard to imagine High School Musical becoming a semi-staple for high school groups to perform themselves. DVD bonus features include sing-along subtitles; a 9-minute featurette discussing casting, recording sessions, and rehearsals; a multi-angle look at a rehearsal of "Bop to the Top"; and music videos for "We're All in This Together" and a song that didn't make it into the final film, "I Can't Take My Eyes Off of You," performed by Efron, Hudgens, Tisdale, and Gabreel. --David Horiuchi

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Mr Benn - The Complete Series (buy now)

Price: £4.97

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Edward Scissorhands [1991] (buy now)

Edward Scissorhands achieves the nearly impossible feat of capturing the delicate flavour of a fable or fairy tale in a live-action movie. The story follows a young man named Edward (Johnny Depp), who was created by an inventor (Vincent Price, in one of his last roles) who died before he could give the poor creature a pair of human hands. Edward lives alone in a ruined Gothic castle that just happens to be perched above a pastel-coloured suburb inhabited by breadwinning husbands and frustrated housewives straight out of the 1950s. One day, Peg (Dianne Wiest), the local Avon lady, comes calling. Finding Edward alone, she kindly invites him to come home with her, where she hopes to help him with his pasty complexion and those nasty nicks he's given himself with his razor-sharp fingers. Soon Edward's skill with topiary sculpture and hair design make him popular in the neighbourhood--but the mood turns just as swiftly against the outsider when he starts to feel his own desires, particularly for Peg's daughter Kim (Winona Ryder). Most of director Tim Burton's movies (such as Pee Wee's Big Adventure, Beetlejuice and Batman) are visual spectacles with elements of fantasy but Edward Scissorhands is more tender and personal than the others. Edward's wild black hair is much like Burton's, suggesting that the character represents the director's own feelings of estrangement and co-option. Johnny Depp, making his first successful leap from TV to film, captures Edward's child-like vulnerability even while his physical posture evokes horror icons like the vampire in Nosferatu and the sleepwalker in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Classic horror films, at their heart, feel a deep sympathy for the monsters they portray; simply and affectingly, Edward Scissorhands lays that heart bare. --Bret Fetzer

On the DVD: Tim Burton is famed for his visual style not his ability as a raconteur, so it's no surprise to find that his directorial commentary is a little sparse. When he does open up it is to confirm that Edward Scissorhands remains his most personal and deeply felt project. The second audio commentary is by composer and regular Burton collaborator Danny Elfman, whose enchanting, balletic score gets an isolated music track all to itself with his remarks in-between cues. Again, for Elfman this movie remains one of his most cherished works, and it is a real musical treat to hear the entire score uninterrupted by dialogue and sound effects but illuminated by Elfman's lucid interstitial remarks. Also on the disc are some brief interview clips, a "making of" featurette and a gallery of conceptual artwork. The anamorphic widescreen print looks simply gorgeous. --Mark Walker

Price: £2.97

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Shrek [2001] (buy now)

Full of verve and wit Shrek is a computer-animated adaptation of William Steig's delightfully fractured fairy tale. Our title character (voiced by Mike Myers) is an agreeable enough ogre who wants to live his days in peace. When the diminutive Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow) evicts local fairy tale creatures (including the now-famous Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio and the Gingerbread Man), they settle in the ogre's swamp and Shrek wants answers from Farquaad. A quest of sorts starts for Shrek and his new pal, a talking donkey (Eddie Murphy), where battles have to be won and a princess (Cameron Diaz) must be rescued from a dragon lair in a thrilling action sequence. The story is stronger than most animated fare but it's the jokes that make Shrek a winner. The PG rating is stretched when Murphy and Myers hit their strides. The mild potty humour is fun enough for the 10-year-old but will never embarrass their parents. Shrek is never as warm and inspired as the Toy Story films, but the realistic computer animation and a rollicking soundtrack keeps the entertainment in fine form. Produced by DreamWorks, the film also takes several delicious stabs at its cross-town rival, Disney. --Doug Thomas, Amazon.com

On the DVD: DVD could have been invented to showcase Shrek's stunning computer animation--admirably served here by 16:9 anamorphic widescreen presentation--while the exuberant soundtrack comes alive in 5.1 Dolby Digital.

There are plenty of extras to choose from on this DVD, from The Tech of Shrek and fake Character Interviews to the amusing Swamp Karaoke Dance Party featuring the whole cast. However, none of these features have much depth, nor do they last long and it would be easy to feel slightly disappointed--were it not for the excellent Shrek's ReVoice Studio. This first-of-its-kind feature requires a computer running Microsoft Windows 98SE or higher, Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.0 or higher, an Internet connection and a DVD-ROM drive. However, once the DVD-ROM is up and running, the instructions could not be clearer and within minutes the whole family will be dubbing their voices over favourite characters and scenes--rendering the other extras almost irrelevant.--Helen Baker

Price: £5.97

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The Wizard Of Oz (3 Disc Collector's Edition) [1939] (buy now)

When it was released during Hollywood's golden year of 1939, The Wizard of Oz wasn't regarded as anything like the perennial classic it has since become. The film did respectable business, but it wasn't until its debut on television that this family favourite saw its popularity soar. And while Oz's TV broadcasts are now controlled by media mogul Ted Turner (who owns the rights), the advent of home video has made this lively musical a mainstay in the staple diet of great American films.

Young Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland), her dog, Toto, and her three companions on the yellow brick road to Oz -- the Tin Man (Jack Haley), the Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr), and the Scarecrow (Ray Bolger) -- have become pop-culture icons and central figures in the legacy of fantasy for children. As the Wicked Witch who covets Dorothy's enchanted ruby slippers, actress Margaret Hamilton has had the singular honor of scaring the wits out of children for more than six decades. The film's still as fresh, frightening and funny as it was when first released. It may take some liberal detours from the original story by L. Frank Baum, but it's loyal to the Baum legacy while charting its own course as a spectacular film. Shot in glorious Technicolor, befitting its dynamic production design (Munchkinland alone is a psychedelic explosion of colour and decor), The Wizard of Oz may not appeal to every taste as the years go by, but it's nonetheless required viewing for kids of all ages. --Jeff Shannon

DVD features

The Wizard of Oz DVD released in 1999 was loaded with extra features, but it's now safe to throw away that version in all its cardboard-package glory in favour of the new three-disc edition. First things first: All the bonus material from the earlier disc is there. That includes the Angela Lansbury-hosted documentary The Making of a Movie Classic, which is worth the price of the DVD alone; then there are the outtakes and deleted scenes, including Judy Garland's "Over the Rainbow" reprise and the home-movie recording of "The Jitterbug"; the sketches and stills and composer Harold Arlen's home movies; the audio underscores and radio programs; the 1979 interviews with Margaret Hamilton, Ray Bolger, and Jack Haley; and other items too numerous to mention. (Some text introductions to the features have been replaced by narration by Lansbury.)

Brand new to this edition is a sharp restoration using Warner's Ultra Resolution process and an accompanying featurette on how it's done. The technicians also discuss how the sound was remixed, though that would have been more effective had it included surround-sound demonstrations. Other features on the new set include a commentary track by critic John Fricke supplemented by vintage cast interviews (he offers a lot of trivia, and debunks the myth that Shirley Temple was ever close to getting the Dorothy role); profiles of nine cast members and clips of other movies they appeared in (including Toto); a lightly animated 10-minute storybook again narrated by Lansbury; 2001 and 2005 behind-the-scenes featurettes; and a 1950 Lux Radio Theater broadcast.

The old 1999 disc also included one-minute excerpts of three early treatments of The Wizard of Oz. The third disc of this new three-disc collector's edition includes the complete versions of those treatments and more. They are four silent films: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1910, 13 min.), The Magic Cloak of Oz (1914, 38 min.), His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz (1914, 59 min., written and directed by Baum himself), The Wizard of Oz (1925, 72 min., Larry Semon). The fifth treatment is Ted Eshbaum's 1933 Technicolor cartoon short which has songs and sound, and is the first depiction of Kansas in black and white and Oz in colour. The third disc also has a 38-minute biography of L. Frank Baum and collector's-edition supplements include a gorgeous set of photo cards among other materials. This is a gloriously comprehensive addition to anyone's classic DVD collection. --David Horiuchi

Price: £4.97

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Tom And Jerry - Classic Collection - Vol. 2 (buy now)

The second DVD in the collector's edition series features classic cartoons capers from the world's most famous cat and mouse duo, taking us in chronological order up to the 1950s episode entitled 'Safety Second'. This collection also includes the famous Oscar-winning installment 'The Cat Concerto', which sees Tom and Jerry turn a concert performance of Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody into a pitched battle on the piano.

Price: £5.47

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Oliver [1968] (buy now)

Film buffs and critics can argue until their faces turn blue about whether this lavish Dickensian musical deserved the Academy Award for Best Picture of 1968, but the movie speaks for itself on grandly entertaining terms. Adapted from Dickens's classic novel, it's one of the most dramatically involving and artistically impressive musicals of the 1960s, directed by Carol Reed with a delightful enthusiasm that would surely have impressed Dickens himself. Mark Lester plays the waifish orphan Oliver Twist, who is befriended by the pick-pocketing Artful Dodger (Jack Wild) and recruited into the gang of boy thieves led by Fagin (played to perfection by Ron Moody). The villainous Bill Sikes (Oliver Reed) casts his long shadow over Oliver and his friends, but the young orphan is still able to find loving care in the most desperate of circumstances. Full of memorable melodies and splendid lyrics, Oliver! is a timeless film, prompting even hard-to-please critic Pauline Kael to call it "a superb demonstration of intelligent craftsmanship," and to further observe that "it's as if the movie set out to be a tribute to Dickens and his melodramatic art as well as to tell the story of Oliver Twist". --Jeff Shannon, Amazon.com

Price: £4.97

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Charlotte's Web [2006] (buy now)

E.B. White's classic tale gets a Babe-like makeover in Charlotte's Web, a delightful and well-made film that is sure to become a family classic. Directed by Gary Winick (13 Going on 30), the new version eschews the musical numbers of the 1973 cartoon and mixes CGI with live-action animals. Dakota Fanning brings the right amount of chutzpah to Fern, the young farm girl who rescues a runt, Wilbur, from death and visits him every day at her Uncle Homer's farm. But it's Wilbur's friendship with Charlotte the spider (voiced by Julia Roberts) that ultimately saves him from the "smoke house" (a kid-friendly alternative term to the slaughterhouse), for Charlotte's talent for weaving praiseworthy words about Wilbur into her web turns the Zuckerman farm into a tourist attraction. The more tragic elements of the book are handled sensitively by Winick, working from a script by Susannah Grant (Erin Brockovich), and Roberts' soothing, maternal voice (who knew it would work so well?) makes it all go down easy. It turns out to be just one of many perfect celebrity voice-casting choices, for the farm animals, voiced by an all-star cast including Oprah Winfrey (the goose), Robert Redford (the horse), Steve Buscemi (Templeton the rat), and John Cleese (the sheep), lend plenty of sharp humour. But it's two corn-hungry crows, voiced by Thomas Haden Church (Sideways) and OutKast's Andre "3000" Benjamin who steal the show. -- Ellen A. Kim

Price: £5.98

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The Shrek Collection - The Story So Far (Shrek 1 & 2 Box Set) [2004] (buy now)

Both of the hit animated movies in one package.

Full of verve and wit, Shrek is a computer-animated adaptation of William Steig's delightfully fractured fairy tale. Our title character (voiced by Mike Myers) is an agreeable enough ogre who wants to live his days in peace. When the diminutive Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow) evicts local fairy tale creatures (including the now-famous Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio and the Gingerbread Man), they settle in the ogre's swamp and Shrek wants answers from Farquaad. A quest of sorts starts for Shrek and his new pal, a talking donkey (Eddie Murphy), where battles have to be won and a princess (Cameron Diaz) must be rescued from a dragon lair in a thrilling action sequence. The story is stronger than most animated fare but it's the jokes that make Shrek a winner. The PG rating is stretched when Murphy and Myers hit their strides. The mild potty humour is fun enough for the 10-year-old but will never embarrass their parents. Shrek is never as warm and inspired as the Toy Story films, but the realistic computer animation and a rollicking soundtrack keeps the entertainment in fine form. Produced by DreamWorks, the film also takes several delicious stabs at its cross-town rival, Disney. --Doug Thomas

In Shrek 2, the newlywed Shrek and Princess Fiona are invited to Fiona's former kingdom, Far Far Away, to have their marriage blessed by Fiona's parents--which Shrek thinks is a bad, bad idea, and he's proved right: the parents are horrified by their daughter's transformation into an ogress, a fairy godmother wants her son Prince Charming to win Fiona, and a feline assassin is hired to get Shrek out of the way. The computer animation is more detailed than ever, but it's the acting that make the comedy work--in addition to the return of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, and Cameron Diaz, Shrek 2 features the flexible voices of Julie Andrews, John Cleese and Antonio Banderas, plus Jennifer Saunders as the gleefully wicked fairy godmother. --Bret Fetzer

Price: £6.98

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Shrek 2 (buy now)

The lovably ugly green ogre returns with his green bride and furry, hooved friend in Shrek 2. The newlywed Shrek and Princess Fiona are invited to Fiona's former kingdom, Far Far Away, to have the marriage blessed by Fiona's parents--which Shrek thinks is a bad, bad idea, and he's proved right: the parents are horrified by their daughter's transformation into an ogress, a fairy godmother wants her son Prince Charming to win Fiona, and a feline assassin is hired to get Shrek out of the way. The computer animation is more detailed than ever, but it's the acting that make the comedy work--in addition to the return of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, and Cameron Diaz, Shrek 2 features the flexible voices of Julie Andrews, John Cleese and Antonio Banderas, plus Jennifer Saunders as the gleefully wicked fairy godmother. --Bret Fetzer

Price: £5.97

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Jump In ! (Freestyle Edition) [2006] (buy now)

Jump roping that's worlds away from anything seen on the local playground bursts from the screen in this Disney Original Movie about the clash between two athletes and their respective sports. Boxer Izzy Daniels (Corbin Bleu) has a hard time taking neighbor Mary's (Keke Palmer) devotion to jump roping seriously, but as Izzy trains relentlessly to maintain his undefeated status and win the Golden Glove, Mary's team practices just as intensely for the city Double Dutch finals. Izzy gains a reluctant respect for Mary's sport when he accompanies his sister Karin (Kylee Russell) to a competition, but it takes some serious convincing to persuade him to fill in for a teammate who's abandon the team on the cusp of city finals. Izzy quickly discovers that Double Dutch is more demanding and rewarding than he'd ever imagined, but when the entire school finds out about his newest sporting exploit, he's taunted into quitting. As Izzy tries to regain his boxing focus, he suddenly realizes that winning the Golden Glove is more his father's (David Reivers) dream than his own. After some serious soul-searching, Izzy decides that he can't let what others think keep him from doing what makes him happy. Jump In! takes a unique look at the varied world of sports and features some great catchy new music from Corbin Bleu and Jordan Pruitt, but the game-winner is its focus on the importance of following one's heart. (Ages 5 and older) --Tami Horiuchi

Price: £10.48

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Finding Nemo (2 Disc Collector's Edition) [2003] (buy now)

A delightful undersea world unfolds in Pixar's animated adventure Finding Nemo. When his son Nemo is captured by a scuba diver, a nervous clownfish named Marlin (voiced by Albert Brooks) sets off into the vast--and astonishingly detailed--ocean to find him. Along the way he hooks up with a scatterbrained blue tang fish named Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), who's both a help and a hindrance, sometimes at the same time. Faced with sharks, deep-sea anglers, fields of poisonous jellyfish, sea turtles, pelicans and much more, Marlin rises above his neuroses in this wonderfully funny and thrilling ride--rarely do more than 10 minutes pass without a sequence appearing that's destined to become a theme-park attraction. Pixar continues its run of impeccable artistic and economic successes (Toy Story, A Bug's Life, Monsters, Inc). Supporting voices here include Willem Dafoe, Geoffrey Rush and Allison Janney. --Bret Fetzer

Price: £16.98

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Night At The Museum (2 Disc Special Edition) [2006] (buy now)

An irresistible concept meets computer-generated wonders in Night at the Museum, inspired by a 1993 children's book by Milan Trenc. Ben Stiller stars as Larry Daley, an underachieving inventor waiting for his ship to come in while getting evicted from one apartment after another for lack of funds. Larry's son needs some stability, so the well-meaning ne'er-do-well takes a job as night watchman at New York City's Museum of Natural History. What the soon-to-retire guards (Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney, Bill Cobbs) don't tell him is that an ancient pharaoh's tablet in the museum causes everything on display to come to life at night. Thus, Larry meets representations of Teddy Roosevelt, Attila the Hun, fire-worshipping cavemen, and Roman Empire soldiers, and learns to cope with an excitable T-Rex and man-eating, ancient animals. The film might have left things at that, but an added story element gives Night at the Museum some extra urgency and excitement, especially for kids: Larry becomes responsible for keeping this nightly miracle going and preventing anything in the museum from dying due to exposure to sunrise. Computer effects, as well as wildly imaginative costumes and makeup, help make the film appeal to the 8-year-old in everyone. Director Shawn Levy (The Pink Panther) works with a hugely talented cast, including Robin Williams, Owen Wilson, Ricky Gervais, Carla Gugino, and Steve Coogan. --Tom Keogh

Price: £14.98

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Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (2 Disc Special Edition) [1968] (buy now)

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang entranced and thrilled children and their parents when it puttered into the cinema in 1968. More than three decades later, and despite the eventual arrival of a stage version that throws the full weight of blockbuster effects at the story, the original remains the real thing for fans of all ages. The flying car is the star and it's impossible not to feel a surge of thrilling relief as the wings kick in when she plunges over the cliff and soars off on her great adventure. The songs might not be the greatest in musical history, but they are delivered with great charm by Dick Van Dyke as Caractacus Potts (a toned-down version of his infamous Bert in Mary Poppins), Sally Ann Howes (Truly Scrumptious) and the children.

And then there is Robert Helpmann's child catcher, a terrifyingly sinister figure who exudes a pungent whiff of undiluted evil unmatched by any character since Dorothy squared up to the witch in The Wizard of Oz. Cameos from British character actors abound: Benny Hill, Lionel Jeffries, Anna Quayle, James Robertson Justice and Max Wall all put in appearances that add some fibre to the overall sweetness of the story. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is the ultimate nostalgic confection for family viewing.

On the DVD: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Special Edition comes to DVD in widescreen format with a Dolby soundtrack to recreate the authentic cinematic experience for everyone who remembers it from the first time round. The picture quality is robust, revealing some rather homespun aspects to the special effects. Extras are dominated by Dick Van Dyke remembering his time on the film, plus a short item on the origins of the car itself and various trailers. --Piers Ford

Price: £5.98

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Camberwick Green - The Complete Collection (buy now)

Price: £4.97

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Mary Poppins (2 Disc 40th Anniversary Special Edition) (buy now)

Price: £8.98

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Cars (2006 - Disney/Pixar) (buy now)

There's an extra coat of hot wax on Pixar's vibrant, NASCAR-influenced comedy about a world populated entirely by cars. Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) is the slick rookie taking the Piston Cup series by storm when the last race of the season (the film's high-octane opening) ends in a three-way tie. On the way to the tie-breaker race in California, Lightning loses his way off Route 66 in the Southwest desert and is taught to stop and smell the roses by the forgotten citizens of Radiator Springs. It's odd to have such a slim story from the whizzes of Pixar, and the film pales a bit from their other films (though can that be a fair comparison?).

Nonetheless, Cars is another gleaming ride with Pixar founder John Lasseter, who's directing for the first time since Toy Story 2. There's the usual spectrum of excellent characters teamed with appropriate voice talent, loads of smooth humor for kids and parents alike, knockout visuals, and a colorful array of sidekicks, including a scene-stealing baby blue forklift named Guido. Lightning's plight is changed with the help of former big-city lawyer Sally Carrera (Pixar veteran Bonnie Hunt), the town's patriarch Doc Hudson (Paul Newman), and kooky tow truck Mater (Larry the Cable Guy). The Incredibles was the first Pixar film to break the 100-minute barrier, but had enough story not to suffer; Cars, at 116 minutes (including some must-see end credit footage), is not as fortunate, plus it never pierces the heart. Trivia fans should have bonanza with the frame-by-frame DVD function; the movie is stuffed with in-jokes, some appearing only for an instant. Ages 5 and up. --Doug Thomas

Price: £14.48

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Ivor The Engine - The Complete Ivor The Engine (buy now)

Price: £3.97

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