by Mark Burger


ADVENTURES OF JOHNNY TAO (MTIHome Video): Writer/director Kenn Scott’s debut feature is amartial-arts time-killer starring Matthew Twining as an orphanedteenager who finds himself enmeshed in supernatural shenanigansinvolving an ancient Chinese demon come to life. Also on hand: ChrisYen (Donnie Yen’s younger sister), Jason London, James Hong andreal-life Extreme Martial Arts champion Matt Mullins. The fights arelargely bloodless, so it’s suitable for kids. The ending leaves thedoor wide open to a potential franchise. Rated PG-13. **

AMUSEMENT (WarnerHome Video): Three friends (Katheryn Winnick, Jessica Lucas and LauraBreckenridge) who share a dark secret are all jeopardized by amysterious killer in this well-made, intermittently effective,derivative horror anthology. “Tabitha,” the segment inspired byWinnick’s character, is far and away, but this is a classic case inwhich the parts are greater than the whole. Rated R. **

BUDDY BOY (ImageEntertainment): A special edition of writer/director Mark Hanlon’s 1999feature debut, starring Aidan Gillen as a repressedparanoiac, living with his mother (Susan Tyrrell), who becomes transfixed by a beautiful new neighbor (Emmanuelle Seigner). This jet-black comedy has its bizarre and interesting moments, and gets better as it goes along, but it never quite gets good. Hanlon, who definitely displays some talent here, hasn’t directed a feature since, however. Rated R. **

CHAOS THEORY (Warner Home Video): Ryan Reynolds plays an efficiency expert whose world comes undone when wife Emily Mortimer re-sets his alarm clock and throws his schedule into a tizzy. This contemporary attempt at screwball comedy starts shakily, gains speed in the midsection and falters in the end. The actors (including Stuart Townsend as Reynolds’ best bud) do their best, but that evidently wasn’t enough for the studio to give it a wide release. Rated PG-13. **

CROSSROADS (MTI Home Video): Writer/producer/directorMurray Robinson’s feature debut — originally titled The Novice and not to be confused with the awful Britney Spears film — stars Jacob Pitts (merely okay) as a Jesuit seminarian whose decision to enter the priesthood hinges on his relationship with a young volunteer (Amy Acker) he meets at a mission on Louisiana’s Gulf Coast. Hokey at times, but blessed (pun intended) with sincere supporting performances by Alan Arkin and Frank Langella as refreshingly down-to-earth clergymen. Rated PG-13. **’½

GHOST WRITER (Genius Products): Executive producer Alan Cumming directs and stars in this uneven black comedy (originally titled Suffering Man’s Charity) about an obsessive music teacher who fixates on his boarder (David Boreanaz), leading to ironic consequences for both of them. Carrie Fisher, Anne Heche, Henry Thomas, Jane Lynch and Karen Black also appear, but young Alison Guh steals her every scene as Cumming’s only student. **

IN THE FOLDS OF THE FLESH (Severin Films): A confused (and confusing) 1970 thriller, involving a deranged, incestuous family that takes to killing houseguests. Add to this beheadings, an acid bath, a pet vulture, black-and-white flashbacks (with Nazis, no less!) and other oddities. The cast includes Pier Angeli (billed as Maria Pierangeli) in one of her last films. *’½

KEVIN GARNETT: KG (NBA Entertainment/Warner Home Video): This basketball documentary traces the career and “hoop dreams” of 11time NBA All-Star Kevin Garnett, who was MVP of the league in the 2003- ’04 season and finally won his first championship with the Boston Celtics last season. This special-edition DVD retails for $24.98.

KISS OF THE VAMPIRE (MTI Home Video): Originally titled Immortally Yours and not to be confused with the 1963 Hammer Films chiller, this talky, low-budget shocker depicts a coven of vampires that descends upon a contemporary city and wreak havoc. This ends up as something of a vampire soap opera… but it’s no “Dark Shadows.” Leading lady Katherine Hawkes also wrote and produced. This takes itself way too seriously and falls apart at the end. Rated R. *

THE LEGEND OF SASQUATCH (Golden Rule Entertainment/ Image Entertainment): A precious but painless animated feature about a family that moves to the Pacific Northwest and learns that the stories of the Sasquatch (portrayed here as cute and fuzzy) aren’t so mythical after all. The vocal talent includes William Hurt and John Rhys-Davies (both associate producers), real-life sisters Jewel and Blaire Restaneo, Lance LeGault and legendary voiceover actress June Foray. For a less familyfriendly film involving the Yeti, keep reading…. Rated G. **

NFL SUPER BOWL XLIII CHAMPIONS: PITTSBURGH STEELERS (NFL Films/Warner Home Video): The Pittsburgh Steelers won their unprecedented sixth Super Bowl by defeating the Arizona Cardinals, 27-23. This special-edition DVD ($24.98 retail) recounts the victory, as well as the circumstances leading up to the big game.

PUSH (Allumination FilmWorks): Writer/producer/director Dave Rodriguez’ low-budget crime drama focuses on three friends (Pierce Forsythe, William DePaolo and Chad Lindberg, who is just awful) who get swept up in the drug trade when they chance upon a stash of ecstasy. Chazz Palminteri and Michael Rapaport drop by briefly, to no discernible effect. A few good scenes, more than a few bad ones and an unmistakable air of familiarity to the proceedings, but this won some awards at film festivals. One can only imagine the films that lost! Rated R. *

REPO! THE GENETIC OPERA (LionsGate Home Entertainment): There’s no lack of ambition or audacity in this twisted, award-winning “rock opera” (created by screenwriters Darren Smith and Terrence Zdunich) set in an oppressive, Orwellian future where illegal organ transplants are the driving economic and social force. Incredibly gory and undeniably energetic, but also pointlessly excessive. Cult status is a safe bet, but this certainly isn’t for everyone. The cast is eclectic in the extreme: Alexa Vega, Sarah Brightman, Paul Sorvino, Anthony Stewart Head, Bill Moseley and even Paris Hilton, who (incredibly enough) isn’t half-bad. Rated R. **

ROMAN POLANSKI: WANTED AND DESIRED (Image Entertainment): Marina Zenovich’s overpowering, award-winning documentary examines the career and life of filmmaker Roman Polanski, with particular regard to the 1977 case in which he was arrested for having sex with a 13-year-old girl. An intense and absolutely fascinating exploration of the legal system, the media’s (continued) coverage and the ramifications of a case that remains in limbo more than 30 years later, since Polanski fled the United States for Paris. Steven Soderbergh was an executive producer. ***’½

STILL WAITING… (LionsGate Home Entertainment): This sequel to the 2005 comedy serves up a string of hit-or-miss jokes (mostly the latter, unfortunately) as it revisits the randy staff of Shenaniganz restaurant. Ryan Reynolds and Anna Faris evidently had better things to do, but holdovers from the first film include Rob Benedict, Chi McBride, Luis Guzman, Alanna Ubach, Andy Milonakis, Max Kasch, Vanessa Lengies, David Koechner, an unbilled Justing Long and screenwriter Ron McKittrick, who evidently didn’t have anything better to do, and are joined by John Michael Higgins (as the repressed manager), Adam Carolla and NCSA School of Drama alumnus Missi Pyle. Rated R (also available in an unrated version). *’½

STREET FIGHTER (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): An “extreme edition” — which may pertain to the audience’s tolerance for silliness — of screenwriter/director Steven E. de Souza’s 1994 big-screen version of the popular Capcom video game, with Jean-Claude Van Damme as UN Special Forces commando Col. William F. Guile and Raul Julia (in his final feature film) as his megalomaniacal nemesis, Gen. M. Bison. As far as movies based on video games go, there has never been a good one — but a tongue-in-cheek attitude makes this one more tolerable than most. The new Street Fighter movie is not a direct sequel to this. Rated PG-13. **

WILD COUNTRY (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Werewolves prey on teenaged backpackers hiking the Scottish Highlands in this fastmoving, well-made but utterly predictable shocker, which marks the feature debut of writer/director Craig Strachan. As the heroine, Samantha Strong (in her screen debut) is a terrific screamer. Rated R. **

THE WOMEN (Warner Home Video): Screenwriter/producer/director Diane English’s long-awaited, all-star updating of George Cukor’s 1939 classic (based on Clare Boothe Luce’s hit play), is a catty comedy about a group of affluent female friends who rally around a friend (Meg Ryan) whose husband is cheating on her. The other “women” of the piece include Candice Bergen (as Ryan’s mom), Annette Bening, Jada Pinkett Smith, Debra Messing, Cloris Leachman, Bette Midler, Carrie Fisher, Debi Mazar, Lynn Whitfield, Joanna Gleason, scene-stealer India Ennega (as Ryan’s daughter) and Eva Mendes as the hussy who led hubby astray, but this feels as if it’s lagging on the coattails of “Sex and the City.” This might’ve been a tolerable, even enjoyable chick flick, but a disastrous second half goes off the deep end. Mick Jagger was also a producer. Trivia note: Ryan’s first film role was playing Bergen’s daughter in Rich and Famous (1981), which was Cukor’s last film. Rated PG-13. *’½

YETI (RHI Entertainment/Genius Products): A college football team’s flight crashes in the Himalayan Mountains — which begs the question: what bowl game were they playing in? — and the survivors must battle not only the elements but also a man-eating CGI Yeti. The cast includes Carly Pope, Peter DeLuise and Ed Marinaro (whose name is misspelled on the DVD sleeve). A few scattered laughs, but otherwise standard stuff. *’½

Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2009, Mark