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Mark Burger’´s DVD Vault

by Mark Burger

CLASS OF 1999 (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Having scored a cult hit with Class of 1984 (1982), director Mark L. Lester encored with this 1990 follow-up, which puts a satirical sci-fi spin on the first film’s storyline. The original film pitted teachers against gangs of students. This one pits gangs of students against the teachers, who aren’t teachers at all but highly-sophisticated military cyborgs programmed to stop school violence before it starts. These robotic instructors are controlled by Dr. Bob Forrest (an albino eyed, pony-tailed Stacy Keach), your quintessential mad scientist, and it’s not long his creations are committing acts of violence that far surpass those of the students, and are in fact directed toward those self-same students. The lethal teachers are played with gusto by Pam Grier (whose name is misspelled on the DVD sleeve), Patrick Kilpatrick and John P. Ryan (who is especially funny). Bradley Gregg plays the teenaged ex-con/hero-at large who figures out that the teachers have short-circuited, and Traci Lind plays the pretty daughter of the timid principal (Malcolm McDowell, adding a touch of class). Few of them are left standing at the fade-out. Great art? Hardly, but Class of 1999 is great junk — fast-paced, foul-mouthed and loaded with action. There are even some valid, satirical and even prescient observations about the state of education — blunt though they may be — which acts as an astute continuation of the previous film’s themes. Although rated R in theaters, this DVD release is the unrated version, which is even gorier. **’½

ALSO ON DVD

“ALVIN & THE CHIPMUNKS”: THE ALVINNN!!! EDITION (Bagdasarian Productions/Paramount Home Entertainment): Those squeaky-voiced musical mammals return in a two-disc collector’s edition of 14 of the most popular animated shorts from the long running cartoon series, being released to commemorate the franchise’s 50 th anniversary. This two-disc set retails for $26.99. In addition, Bagdasarian Productions/Paramount Home Entertainment has also released “Alvin and the Chipmunks Go to the Movies: Daytona Jones and the Pearl of Wisdom,” a collection of three animated adventures inspired by Hollywood hits, also including “Batmunk” and “Robomunk.” This special-edition DVD retails for $16.99.

BAIT SHOP (LionsGate Home Entertainment): This by-the-numbers slapstick comedy stars with Bill Engvall (who also co-wrote the story) as a financially strapped bait-shop owner who squares off against a champion fisherman (Billy Ray Cyrus), bypassed theatrical release and premiered on cable. Rated PG. *’½

BELLY 2: MILLIONAIRE BOYZ CLUB (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Run-of the-mill gangsta goings-on, ostensibly spun off from Belly (1998), with the Game (also an executive producer) as an ex-con whose attempts to conquer the mean streets of Compton are threatened by an undercover cop (Shari Headley) whom he’s romancing, and a corrupt cop (Ed O’Ross) trying to muscle in on his business. “Life is hard,” says one character. “The streets are harder.” Well, sitting through this is no picnic, either. Rated R. *

THE BIG LEBOWSKI (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): A 10 th -anniversary edition of Joel and Ethan Coen’s irreverent, often uproarious, 1998 black comedy with Jeff Bridges in an iconic performance as “the Dude,” a pot-smoking slacker who becomes the victim of mistaken identity. A superb cast also includes John Goodman, John Turturro, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, David Huddleston, David Thewlis, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ben Gazzara, Peter Stormare and Tara Reid (in her screen debut). One of the best films of 1998, but it runs out of steam toward the end. Still, this remains one of the Coens’ most enduring films, with an ever-growing cult to prove it. The new special edition retails for $19.98; the two-disc, “limited edition gift set” (replete with bowling ball packaging) retails for $34.98. Rated R. ***’½

“BRIAN REGAN: THE EPITOME OF HYPERBOLE” (Comedy Central Home Entertainment/Paramount Home Entertainment): Comedian Brian Regan is showcased live in concert at the Paramount Theatre in Denver in this Comedy Central stand-up special, which includes bonus footage and retails for $19.99.

THE CASE FOR FAITH (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Author and theologian Lee Strobel examines Christianity in a contemporary context in this adaptation of his non-fiction book. This DVD retails for $19.98.

FINAL APPROACH (RHI Entertainment/ Genius Products): So-so time-killer with Anthony Michael Hall as the leader of a group of terrorists who hijack a passenger airliner. Good thing ex-FBI agent Dean Cain is also on board. Tracey Gold, Brian Field, Candice Azzara, Scott Paulin and Sunny Mabrey are also aboard the endangered jet, while the ground contingent of interested parties includes Lea Thompson, Richard Roundtree, Ernie Hudson and William Forsythe. **

FLOOD (RHI Entertainment/Genius Products): It’s time to “rue Britannia” as the city of London is endangered by catastrophic tidal surge. Tom Courtenay and Robert Carlyle play an estranged father and son brought together again by the tragedy, with Joanne Whalley, David O’Hara, Jessalyn Gilsig and David Suchet in support. **

THE INVINCIBLE IRON MAN (LionsGate Home Entertainment): This Blu-ray release, which retails for $29.99, is a feature-length animated feature that re-tells the origins of one of Marvel Comics’ most popular and enduring superheroes.

KAGEMUSHA (The Criterion Collection): For the first time, the full and uncut version of Akira Kurosawa’s 1980 epic samurai drama (subtitled “The Shadow Warrior”), with Tatsuya Nakadai in a dual role as a powerful warlord killed in battle and the simple thief recruited to take his place — which leads him to glory, greatness and political prominence. Oh, the irony… (a Kurosawa staple.) Academy Award nominations for best foreign-language film and art direction/set decoration. Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas were the executive producers. This two-disc special edition, which boasts a new hi-definition digital transfer, retails for $39.95.

“LIFE” — SEASON ONE (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): All 11 episodes from the 2007 season of the prime-time NBC-TV drama series, created by executive producer Rand Ravich, with Damian Lewis as an ex-cop who is released after 12 years in prison for a crime his didn’t commit, and then returns to the police force with a new outlook on life and work. Sarah Shahi plays his partner, herself confronting a troubled past. This boxed set retails for $29.98.

NEXT AVENGERS: HEROES OF TOMORROW (LionsGate Home Entertainment): This feature-length animated adventure, which retails for $19.98, depicts the origins and adventures of four teenaged superheroes whose illustrious lineage includes those classic heroes of Marvel Comics lore, including Captain America, Black Widow, Black Panther and Thor. Rated PG.

SOGGY BOTTOM, USA (KOCH Vision): Stereotypes (albeit affectionate ones) abound in director Theodore Flicker’s 1980 comedy about life in a sleepy Louisiana town during the days of Prohibition. Silly, predictable and lightweight, but easy to take on its own modest terms thanks to a likable cast of stalwarts including Ben and Don Johnson (no relation), Anthony and Brion James (no relation, either), Anthony Zerbe, Lane Smith, Lois Nettleton, Ann Wedgeworth, Jack Elam, PJ Soles, Dub Taylor, Dan Resin, Earl Boen and Severn Darden. Best exchange: “You ever had a hangover?” “Hell, I had ‘em when they first come out!” Rated PG. **

“SOUTH PARK” — THE COMPLETE ELEVENTH SEASON: UNCENSORED (Comedy Central Home Entertainment/ Paramount Home Entertainment): All 14 episodes from the 2007-’08 season of the award-winning, long-running (and still going strong) animated Comedy Central series created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone. And, yes, they kill Kenny. Again and again and again. This boxed set retails for $49.99. Comedy Central Home Entertainment/ Paramount Home Entertainment has also released the uncensored director’s cut of the three-part, feature-length episode “South Park: Imaginationland,” which retails for $19.99.

“UFC” (LionsGate Home Entertainment): That stands for “Ultimate Fighting Championship,” and LionsGate has released the latest volumes of highlights from championship matches. “UFC 9: Motor City Madness” features six winner-take-all fights, including a climactic slugfest between Ken Shamrock and Dan Severn. “UFC 10: The Tournament” boasts the “superfight” between Mark Coleman and Don Frye. Each volume retails for $19.98.

“WILL & GRACE” — SEASON 8 (LionsGate Home Entertainment): The end of the line for long-time roommates Will (Eric McCormack) and Grace (Debra Messing) — as well as best friends Karen (Megan Mullally) and Jack (Sean Hayes) — in all 23 episodes from the 2005-’06 (and final) season of the long-running, award winning NBC-TV situation comedy. Both Mullally (outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series) and Leslie Jordan (outstanding guest actor in a comedy series) won Emmy Awards, with an additional eight nominations including those for Messing (outstanding lead actress in a comedy series), Hayes (outstanding supporting actor in a comedy series), Alec Baldwin (outstanding guest actor in a comedy series) and Blythe Danner (outstanding guest actress in a comedy series). This four-DVD boxed set retails for $44.98. In addition, LionsGate Home Entertainment is also releasing “Will & Grace: The Complete Series Collection,” which contains each and every episode. This boxed set retails for $249.98.

“THE WIRE” — THE COMPLETE FIFTH SEASON (HBO Video): All 10 episodes from the 2008 (and final) season of the acclaimed, award-winning HBO series, created by executive producer David Simon, which depicts the ongoing (and often serpentine) struggle between police and criminals on the mean streets of Baltimore. The regular cast includes Dominic West, Wendell Pierce, Clarke Peters, Deirdre Lovejoy and Frankie Faison. This boxed set retails for $59.99.

WOMAN TIMES SEVEN (LionsGate Home Entertainment): A tour-de-force for Shirley MacLaine, appearing in seven different roles in Vittorio de Sica’s 1967 comedy anthology focusing on love, loss, lust and other affairs of the heart — all taking place in the city of Paris. Surrounding Shirley, and helping to keep this elegant fluff afloat, is an all-star supporting cast: Peter Sellers, Alan Arkin, Lex Barker (who is surprisingly good) Rossano Brazzi, Vittorio Gassman, Anita Ekberg, Robert Morley, Philippe Noiret, Patrick Wymark, Elsa Martinelli and Michael Caine (who has nothing to say). **’½

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

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