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Play: DVD -- Down Under DVDs

Don't worry if last week's Slim Dusty and Cold Chisel concerts scared you off, there are some decent Australian dramas hitting the stores.

This week we continue on with the Aussie themed DVDs, but don't worry if last week's Slim Dusty and Cold Chisel concerts scared you off, there are some decent Australian dramas hitting the stores.

Sirens (Buena Vista)
It was first released on the big screen in 1994, but this one is fun to revisit, as it's based on the life of prolific Australian artist Norman Lindsay (played here by Sam Neill). Indeed it was filmed on location at his Blue Mountains, NSW home which is now a National Trust Property.

Lindsay has angered an Anglican bishop and Sydney's religious establishment by painting an erotic portrait that finds its way into an major exhibition. Hugh Grant (pre Four Weddings and a Funeral and Devine Brown) plays an idealistic young minister, fresh out from England with his uptight wife (Tara Fitzgerald), sent on a mission to tame the wicked ways of the notorious artist. Confronted by his beautiful free-spirited nude models (a hot Aussie chick line up of Elle Macpherson, Portia de Rossi and Kate Fischer), the repressed reverend and his wife instead are led into temptation by their playfully seductive hosts and sensuous new surroundings.

Van Helsing (2 Disc Set) (Universal)
OK this technically is not an Australian DVD, but with three Australian actors in the cast, we can just about call it one of our own.

Hugh Jackman (Aussies No.1) takes the lead as Dr. Gabriel Van Helsing, a famous monster hunter of the late 19th century. His main prey is the scourge of Eastern Europe, Count Dracula played by Richard Roxburgh (Aussie No.2). Not content just persuing Dracula, Van Helsing is also after the Wolf Man and Frankenstein's Monster.

Kate Beckinsale chips in as the token beautiful and virtuous female who helps Van Helsing in his quest to vanquish evil. Also on the 'good team', is David Wenham (Aussie No. 3) who plays Carl, a friar entrusted with ensuring Van Helsing's safety.

This DVD is packed with extras. Some of the special features include a 360 degree tour of Frankenstein's Lab and Dracula's Castle; a look at the movie's special effects; a mini documentary on the Van Helsing legend; an interactive piece on both the sets and characters; the movie's music; and of course, the obligatory bloopers.

Japanese Story (Fox)
Geologist Sandy Edwards (Toni Collette) is assigned by her business partner to play tour guide to their client, Japanese businessman Tachibana Hiromitsu (Gotaro Tsunashima) to inspect Australian mines. Reluctantly accepting the task, no-nonsense Sandy initially finds it hard to make conversation or bond with Tachibana due to cultural and personal barriers.

After getting stranded in the dessert when their car gets bogged down, the two warm to each other and the film takes on an aspect of a road trip movie. As the romance between the unlikely couple ensues, and tragedy unexpectedly strikes, Collete's performance takes you on an emotional journey.

Directed by Sue Brooks, who previously shot episodes of popular drama series Seachange, Japanese Story features stunning shots of rugged Australian landscapes combined with a gently traditional Japanese soundtrack. Bonus features on the DVD include a deleted scene titled 'We Were Swimming' and audio commentary with director Sue Brooks, writer Alison Jilson and producer Sue Maslin.