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Mark Burger’´s DVD Vault

by Mark Burger

THE KIDNAPPING OF THE PRESIDENT (BCI): Given the heat and hype of the presidential race, there’s no better time to revisit this 1980 political potboiler, a credible and solidly-crafted B-movie that wrings every drop of suspense from its high concept. Hal Holbrook is ideally cast as Adam Scott, an honest and down-to-earth POTUS (the film is obviously a work of fiction), whose visit to Toronto is rudely interrupted when South American terrorist Roberto Assanti (a seething Miguel Fernandes) handcuffs him inside an armored car wired with explosives. Top-billed William Shatner, in one of his best performances (including “Star Trek”), plays Jerry O’Connor, the Secret Serviceman whose warnings about Assanti went unheeded and who now must save his boss, the leader of the free world. Needless to say, the bomb is ticking and time is running out. Also in good form: Van Johnson, terrific as a vice-president wrestling with both a ruinous scandal and the responsibilities of handling the crisis, Gary Reineke as O’Connor’s CIA nemesis and Michael J Reynolds as the Toronto police chief. North Carolina’s own Ava Gardner contributes a brief cameo as the VP’s harridan of a wife. Directed with brisk efficiency by George Menduluk, this marked the final screenplay of two-time Oscar nominee Richard Murphy, who adapted Charles Templeton’s novel. There are a couple of melodramatic moments, including an almost laughable dismissal of a major plot point, but this is good stuff — an ideal movie for a rainy day. Rated R. *** (The film is being released on a DVD double-bill with writer/director Mark Pirro’s low-budget 1987 satire Deathrow Gameshow, which takes reality game-shows to a new and lethal level.)

ALSO ON DVD

AFFINITY (Logo/Paramount Home Entertainment): This adaptation of Sarah Waters’ novel stars Anna Madeley as a (closeted) lesbian socialite who develops a romantic fixation for a supposed medium (Zoe Tapper) incarcerated in a women’s prison in London, circa 1872. Not without interest or potential, but gloomy and ponderous. Good twist ending, though. **

“ALVIN & THE CHIPMUNKS: ALVIN’S THANKSGIVING CELEBRATION” (Bagdasarian Productions/Paramount Home Entertainment): It seems that those squeaky-voiced cartoon chipmunks have a special for every holiday, doesn’t it? This one, which retails for $14.99, contains four episodes of the animated series which celebrate the Thanksgiving spirit. In addition, Bagdasarian Productions/Paramount Home Entertainment is releasing the boxed set “Alvin & the Chipmunks: Classic Holiday Gift Set” ($37.99 retail), which includes the Thanksgiving special, “Alvin & the Chipmunks: Trick or Treason” (five Halloween-themed episodes), and “Alvin & the Chipmunks: A Chipmunk Christmas” (three yuletide episodes). Some people just can’t get enough of those Chipmunks, I guess …

AMERICA’S GREATEST MONUMENTS: WASHINGTON, DC (Infinity Entertainment Group): A Smithsonian Network documentary that explores the origins of the monuments found in the nation’s capitol. This DVD retails for $24.98.

“COMEDY CENTRAL SALUTES GEORGE W. BUSH” (Comedy Central Home Entertainment/Paramount Home Entertainment): This DVD, which retails for $14.99, “commemorates” the legacy of the 43 rd President of the United States in a selection of episodes and segments from such popular Comedy Central series’ as “The Daily Show,” “The Colbert Report,” “South Park,” “That’s My Bush” and “Lil’ Bush.”

“DIRTY SEXY MONEY” — THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): All 10 episodes from the 2007 season of the primetime ABC-TV series detailing the scandalous behavior of America’s wealthiest family. The all-star cast includes Donald Sutherland, Jill Clayburgh, Peter Krause, William Baldwin and Blair Underwood. It earned an Emmy nomination for outstanding hairstyling for a single-camera series (for the episode “The Bridge”). This boxed set retails for $39.99.

“DRIVE-IN CULT CLASSICS, VOL. 3” (Deimos/BCI): A selection of low-rent drive-in favorites from the ’60s and ’70s, all released theatrically by Crown International Pictures: Matt Cimber’s 1968 adaptation of Single Room Furnished marked the final film of screen bombshell Jayne Mansfield; 1969’s The Babysitter and its 1971 sequel Weekend With the Babysitter, were directed, under the pseudonym Don Henderson, by Tom Laughlin (later to find fame in Billy Jack); the lurid, amusingly-titled Blood Mania (1970) features Playboy Playmates Reagan Wilson and Vicki Peters; Dan Haggerty and Michael Pataki are featured in the 1971 comedy The Pink Angels (1971), making its DVD debut, which puts a spin on motorcycle movies by depicting the misadventures of a gay biker gang (!); Robert Carradine and Jennifer Ashley star in the 1976 hit The Pom Pom Girls, directed by Joseph Ruben and filmed at the school in Southern California that a friend of mine attended; James Daughton and Kim Lankford star in Malibu Beach (1978); and writer/director William Sachs’ Van Nuys Blvd. (1979) stars David Hayward (from Nashville) and Cynthia “Cyndi” Wood, the Playboy Playmate of the Year of 1974. All of these films are rated R, for reasons that should be obvious. This boxed set of B-movie mania retails for $12.98.

EDGES OF THE LORD (Miramax Home Entertainment): An overwrought, heavyhanded World War II fable with Haley Joel Osment as a Jewish boy sent to live in the Polish countryside during the Nazi occupation, where he passes himself off as Catholic. Willem Dafoe, with an accent reminiscent of Count Dracula, plays the parish priest. Despite seemingly can’t-miss subject material, this misses by a wide, sometimes awkward, margin — and also bypassed theatrical release (for good reason). Rated R. *’½

THE FALL OF FUJIMORI (Cinema Libre Studio): Speaking of politics, this captivating and award-winning documentary from producer/director/writer/cinematographer Ellen Perry traces the career of Alberto Fujimori, whose decade-long stint as the president of Peru was fraught with controversy. Given Fujimori’s recently upheld criminal conviction after being extradited back to Peru, and the circumstances regarding that conviction and other charges (especially in light of recent political events), this film couldn’t be more timely — or more relevant. Yet it’s also a remarkably even-handed and focused account of both sides of the issue, with Fujomori speaking for himself in an exclusive on-camera interview. ***’½

THE KING OF KONG: A FISTFUL OF QUARTERS (New Line Home Entertainment): Seth Gordon’s marvelously engaging, award-winning feature documentary about the wonderful world of video games — specifically the efforts of an unemployed Everyman, Steve Wiebe, to score one million points and set the world record for Donkey Kong, thereby beating the previous record set by Billy Mitchell, the so-called “Gamer of the Century.” A classic underdog story that also happens to be true. PG-13. ***’½

“LEWIS BLACK’S ROOT OF ALL EVIL” (Comedy Central Home Entertainment/ Paramount Home Entertainment): The award-winning comedian and playwright (a graduate of the University of North Carolina, by the way) tackles such topics as politics, pop culture and everyday life, joined by the likes of Patton Oswalt, Greg Giraldo and Andre Daly, in all 8 episodes from the 2008 season of the Comedy Central series. This DVD retails for $26.99.

MY LITTLE PONY LIVE! — THE WORLD’S BIGGEST TEA PARTY (Hasbro Inc./ Paramount Home Entertainment): The live musical stage show based on the popular line of Hasbro toys and its subsequent film and TV spin-offs. This special-edition DVD retails for $16.99. If you prefer the animated series, Hasbro/Paramount rings in the holidays with the special episode “My Little Pony: A Very Minty Christmas” ($16.99 retail). This marks the franchise’s 25th birthday. As was said in The Hudsucker Proxy: “You know … for kids.”

“NFL’S FUNNIEST PLAYERS” (NFL Films/ Warner Home Video): Former New York Giant Michael Strahan hosts this compilation of archival footage showcasing some of the National Football League’s biggest stars in a more humorous light. This DVD retails for $19.98.

“ON THE ICE AND BEYOND” (NHL Productions/Warner Home Video): This special-edition DVD ($24.98 retail) profiles 23-year-old NHL phenomenon Sidney “Sid the Kid” Crosby, who’s already established himself as a force to reckon with and last season led his team, the Pittsburgh Penguins, to their first Stanley Cup Finals in over 15 years.

“SAMANTHA WHO?” ‚ THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): All 15 episodes from the 2007-’08 season of the ABC-TV prime-time situation comedy with the ever-adorable Christina Applegate as a young woman, suffering from amnesia, who trying to put the pieces of her past together. Applegate earned an Emmy nomination as outstanding lead actress in a comedy series, while Jean Smart (as Samantha’s mother) won the Emmy for supporting actress in a comedy series. This boxed set retails for $29.99.

“SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK!” – THE ELECTION COLLECTION (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): A collection of election- and political-themed animated shorts and songs from the long-running, Emmy Award-winning Saturday-morning cartoon series that aired on ABC-TV from 1973 to 1986 (which was when I first saw it) and then again in the ’90s. We actually used to watch these in grade school. This limitededition DVD retails for $19.99.

“STORIES FROM THE VAULTS” — SEASON ONE (Infinity Entertainment Group): Tom Cavanagh hosts all seven episodes from the 2007-’08 season of the Smithsonian Network documentary series tracing the history of, and the many artifacts stored within, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. This special-edition DVD retails for $24.98.

“TWO AND A HALF MEN” — THE COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON (Warner Home Video): All 24 episodes from the 2006- ’78 season of the popular, prime-time CBS sitcom with Charlie Sheen and Jon Cryer as bickering brothers who live under the same roof with the latter’s precocious son (Angus T. Jones). Six Emmy nominations that season including outstanding comedy series, lead actor in a comedy series (Sheen), supporting actor in a comedy series (Cryer) and supporting actress in a comedy series (Conchata Ferrell and Holland Taylor), with wins for outstanding cinematography and multi-camera picture editing for a multicamera series (both for the episode “Release the Dogs”). This boxed set retails for $44.98.

UP AND ABOVE (SKD USA/KOCH Entertainment): Prodigal Sunn hosts this compilation of short films featuring a variety of rap artists and extreme sports athletes including The RZA, GZA, Ghostface Killah, Sticky Fingaz, Pierre-Luc Gagnon, Ronnie Faisst and Troy Garity (who, if you didn’t know, is the son of Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden). This DVD retails for $14.98.

Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2008, Mark Burger

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