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New on DVD: Monty Python, Woody Allen and more

Posted 4:08pm on Monday, Oct. 26, 2009

Most discussions of Monty Python begin with a favorite sketch and expand outward, escalating into ever sillier digressions. The Python franchise has been thoroughly mined; multiple editions of the Python films exist on DVD and the series has been repackaged a couple times itself. Until now, there hasn't been a definitive documentary but Bill Jones, Alan G. Parker and Benjamin Timlett's six-hour Monty Python: Almost the Truth (The Lawyer's Cut) comes the closest yet.

Its generous length allows the surviving Pythons, along with a coterie of admirers and collaborators, to bring a somewhat fresh perspective to the well-worn tale of the groundbreaking British comedians' trajectory at home and abroad. Truth doesn't flinch from the troupe's spiky interpersonal relationships; the factions of frenemies are abundantly clear. Still, copious clips (including a few moving, hilarious snippets of Graham Chapman's memorial service) and fawning tributes from the likes of Steve Coogan, Eddie Izzard and Stephen Merchant make this sprawling doc a must-have for Dead Parrot-heads. Extras include even more interview footage (one bit focuses on Dallas-based KERA's willingness to be the first American PBS station to air Flying Circus in the early '70s) and a selection of timeless sketches (yes, "The Dead Parrot" is included). (Eagle Rock, $29.99 DVD; $39.99 Blu-ray)

-- Whatever Works: Writer/director Woody Allen's latest pairs him with kvetching comrade-in-arms Larry David, who schools the younger Melanie (Evan Rachel Wood) with his acerbic worldview.

-- Il Divo: Paolo Sorrentino writes and directs this admittedly dense but enthralling portrait of Italian prime minister Giulio Andreotti (played by Toni Servillo), whose reign was fraught with nefarious deeds.

-- Z: Criterion Collection: Costa-Gavras' white-knuckle, Oscar-winning thriller still resonates 40 years later; if anything, its exploration of governmental machinations and the quest for truth seems eerily prescient in 2009.

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