Digital Breakdown: One broken ‘Golden Compass’ 

THE GOLDEN COMPASS — TWO-DISC SPECIAL EDITION

Labeled as anti-Christian by some religious groups and blasted by fans of the book for being too radically different, "The Golden Compass" came under fire from all sides. But really, the film should get flak simply because it just isn’t that good. It’s a poor man’s "Chronicles of Narnia"; the plotline and fantasy are so similar — except the lion in "Narnia" is replaced with a polar bear — it’s surprising no lawsuits have been filed.

In a parallel world, a girl from Earth is destined to hold the fate of the universe in her hands … but others are out to stop her, so she enlists help from a friendly polar bear leader and other unlikely allies to assist her in bringing a golden compass to its rightful place. The DVD has 11 featurettes, plus audio commentary from director Chris Weitz. Too bad the subject matter isn’t any better. Price: $34.99 to $39.99. Rent or buy: Rent, if that

FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE — LIMITED COLLECTOR’S EDITION

Hot on the heels of the "El Cid Limited Edition" DVD comes another big, super-cool DVD featuring a 1960s movie based on an epic tale. Starring Alec Guinness and Sophia Loren, "Fall of the Roman Empire" was famous for its 55-acre set of the Roman Forum; it was the largest outdoor film set built to date. The movie tells the story of Marcus Aurelius, who chooses his adopted son Livius over his own son, Commodus. But before Livius takes the throne, Commodus murders his father and declares himself leader of Rome, creating a power struggle that rocked the greatest empire the world has ever known.

This limited collector’s edition’s awesome special features include a reproduction of the 1961 souvenir program, color production stills, Encyclopedia Britannica Roman Empire featurettes, five more featurettes about how Rome was built during the making of the movie and audio commentary from film historians. Price: $39.92. Rent or buy: Buy

27 DRESSES

"Grey’s Anatomy" star Katherine Heigl is making a name for herself on the big screen. Her follow-up to "Knocked Up" is "27 Dresses," about a woman who has been a bridesmaid 27 times. Heigl is perfect as the under-the-radar friend constantly in search of love. Although the movie is predictable, it’s also fun and charming. A handful of deleted scenes and four featurettes about weddings and the making of the movie round out the DVD. Price: $29.98 to $39.98. Rent or buy: Rent

HEADLESS HORSEMAN

Original movies on the cable network Sci Fi Channel are either hit or miss, rarely in-between. "Headless Horseman" from two-time director Anthony C. Ferrante is definitely a hit. It’s about a group of college friends who take the wrong shortcut through a town called Wormwood on their way to a party. As a result, they must be sacrificed to the Headless Horseman, a cursed man whose head was cut off by the people of Wormwood because he killed children. Thanks to a deal with the devil, he comes back every seven years to get his revenge on the townsfolk, claiming seven heads as a sacrifice to his evil god. There are no special features on the DVD, which is too bad, given the wealth of possibilities for behind-the-scenes material. Price: $24.98. Rent or buy: Rent

MOONDANCE ALEXANDER

Moondance Alexander is an outcast at school, picked on by the popular girls and boys. But when she discovers a pony named Checkers, her life is changed forever, and she realizes a dream she never knew she had. "Moondance Alexander" is a quality family film with a decent cast (Kay Panabaker plays Moondance; Don Johnson co-stars) and some great cinematography — fine for everyone to enjoy. There’s not a lot in the way of extras on the DVD. Price: $26.98. Rent or buy: Rent

Other DVDs out Tuesday: "Bernard and Doris," "Diamond Dogs," "Hero Wanted," "First Knight Special Edition," "Angelique: The Complete Movie Collection," "Dead Man’s Bounty," "The Waltons — The Complete Seventh Season" and "Cheers — The Complete Ninth Season."

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Staff Report

Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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