Mark Burger’´s DVD Vault

by Mark Burger

WAR, INC. (First Look Studios): Taking its skewed cues from recent world events, this political satire posits the idea that a war in the Middle East would be outsourced to an American conglomerate with direct financial ties to the White House, evidently with the tacit approval of the US government. Have you ever heard anything so crazy? In a role similar to the one he played in the 1997 cult classic Grosse Pointe Blank, John Cusack (also a co-writer and producer) portrays Hauser, a laconic and neurotic hit-man whose specialty is political assassinations. Once he

thought he was doing his country a service; now he’s not so sure. Hauser reaches his breaking point when assigned to kill an oil minister (named “Omar Sharif”) in the fictional nation of Turaquistan. He finds himself attracted to Natalie Hagelhuzen (Marisa Tomei), a feisty journalist and a confirmed member of the “liberal media,” while also fending off the advances of Yonica Babbyyeah (Hilary Duff), a Middle Eastern pop star whose high-profile wedding Hauser also finds himself mixed up in. Sometimes inventive and sometimes heavyhanded, War, Inc. earns points for audacity but loses a few in the uneven execution. Still, the actors give it everything they’ve got. Duff is particularly, surprisingly good as the tarty Yonica, and the cast also includes Joan Cusack (John’s real-life sister) as Hauser’s aggravated assistant, Dan Aykroyd as a former vice president with a distinct similarity to one Dick Cheney, and a deliriously hammy Ben Kingsley, sporting a Southern accent like no other, as Hauser’s deranged former CIA mentor. Rated R. **’½


ANNE FRANK REMEMBERED (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Winner of the 1995 Academy Award as best documentary feature, writer/producer/director Jon Blair’s film gives a thorough and moving account of the life of the Jewish teenager whose diary is inarguably one of the most inspirational and influential books of the twentieth century. Kenneth Branagh narrates, with Glenn Close reading segments from The Diary of Anne Frank. Rated PG. ***’½

“BROTHERS & SISTERS” — THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): All 16 episodes from the 2007-’08 season of the prime-time ABC-TV family drama featuring an all-star ensemble cast: Sally Field (Emmy nominee for outstanding lead actress in a drama series), Rob Lowe, Calista Flockhart, Rachel Griffiths (Emmy nominee for supporting actress in a drama series), Ron Rifkin and Patricia Wettig. One more Emmy nomination: Outstanding casting for a drama series. This boxed set retails for $59.99.

“CAILLOU’S WINTER WONDERS” (PBS Kids/Paramount Home Entertainment): With

the holidays fast approaching, here’s a selection of 14 winter-themed episodes from the animated children’s series that airs on the PBS Kids network. This DVD retails for $14.99.

“CLICK & CLACK’S AS THE WRENCH TURNS” (PBS Home Video/Paramount Home Entertainment): All 10 episodes from the 2008 season of PBS’ first animated prime-time series, based on the long-running National Public Radio series “Car Talk” and syndicated newspaper column, with real-life brothers Tom (“Click”) and Ray Magliozzi (“Clack”) reprising their radio roles in cartoon form. This two-disc special-edition retails for $34.99.

THE GREATEST STORIES OF MICHIGAN FOOTBALL (Genius Products): The storied history of one of college football’s most venerable programs, the University of Michigan, follows the Wolverines from their inception in 1879 to the present day, including such highlights as the 1997 season, when the team went undefeated. This special-edition DVD retails for $19.95.

HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 2 — DELUXE DANCE EDITION (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): Director/choreographer Kenny Ortega expands the musical horizons of Disney’s latest big-buck franchise with this special edition of the top-rated Disney Channel movie the reunited the stars of the original movie: Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale, Corbin Blue, Lucas Grabeel and Monique Coleman. This special-edition DVD retails for $34.99.

HOPE SPRINGS (Touchstone Home Entertainment): After being jilted by his fiancée (Minnie Driver), an artist (Colin Firth) seeks peace and quiet in a quirky Vermont town — but instead finds himself falling for a lovely local (Heather Graham, whose exuberant striptease is a highlight). Screenwriter/director Mark Herman’s middling adaptation of Charles (The Graduate) Webb’s novel New Cardiff, his first in 25 years, was dumped by its studio. The cast, also including Mary Steenburgen and Oliver Platt, tries…. Rated PG-13. *’½

THE LAST DAYS OF LEFT EYE (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Writer/director Lauren Lazin’s well-rendered documentary feature utilizes footage that TLC’s Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes began as her own personal chronicle, but never lived to finish. That lends it a poignant irony that it otherwise probably wouldn’t have, and actual footage of her fatal car accident in Honduras is also included. ***

“LIL’ BUSH: RESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES” — SEASON TWO (Comedy Central Home Entertainment/Paramount Home Entertainment): All 10 episodes from the 2008 season of the animated Comedy Central series, which depicts the 43 rd President of the United States and his cabinet members as young children. Whether or not the series will continue, with the real George W Bush on his way out of the White House, is anybody’s guess. This boxed set retails for $26.99.

MISSING (The Criterion Collection): At long last, a special edition of director Costa- Gavras’ chilling, hugely controversial, factbased political thriller depicting the search for American expatriate journalist Charles Horman (John Shea), who mysteriously vanishes in Chile during the 1973 revolution, by his wife (Sissy Spacek) and his father Ed (Jack Lemmon). A scathing and shattering indictment of covert US politics, directed and acted with a conviction that made it one of the best films of 1982. Adapted from Thomas Hauser’s non-fiction best-seller by Costa-Gavras and Donald Stewart, who won the Oscar for best adapted screenplay, the film also earned nominations for best picture and for the superb performances of Lemmon (best actor) and Spacek (best actress). An excellent supporting cast includes Melanie Mayron, David Clennon, Charles Cioffi, Joe Regalbuto, Keith Szarabajka, Richard Venture, Jerry Hardin, Richard Bradford and Janice Rule. Great score by Vangelis, too. An absolute knockout. Rated PG. ****

MOONTIDE (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): French superstar Jean Gabin made his American debut in this brooding 1942 romantic melodrama, adapted by John O’Hara from Willard Robertson’s novel, about the desperate denizens of an impoverished seaside town, among them Ida Lupino, Thomas Mitchell (cast against type as a villain), Jerome Cowan, Ralph Byrd and the great Claude Rains. The Production Code tempered much of the novel’s seamier aspects, lending the film a strange, almost surreal, mood. Although a lot of the story is set on the water, the film was shot almost entirely on the Fox lot yet still landed an Oscar nomination for cinematography (blackand-white). Original director Fritz Lang was replaced by Archie Mayo. A curio, to be sure, but worth catching — especially for film noir buffs. **’½

REAR WINDOW (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): A new, two-disc special edition ($26.98 retail) of Alfred Hitchcock’s wonderful 1954 thriller, based on a Cornell Woolrich short story, with James Stewart as a photographer with a broken leg who believes he’s seen his neighbor (Raymond Burr) murder his wife across the courtyard. There’s plenty of dark subtext to the colorful proceedings — a Hitchcock staple — and this ranks as one of the Master’s most acclaimed and beloved films. A wonderful cast also includes Grace Kelly (impossibly gorgeous), Wendell Corey (perhaps his best performance) and the inestimable Thelma Ritter. Four Academy Award nominations: Best director, adapted screenplay, sound recording and cinematography (color). Naturally, Hitchcock contributes his trademark cameo appearance, but far be it for me to say where. Rated PG. ****

SALVATORE GIULIANO (The Criterion Collection): Francesco Rosi’s acclaimed, award-winning neo-realist 1961 docu-drama follows the career of the notorious bandit and folk hero, who was assassinated in 1950

at the age of 27. Salvo Randone plays a judge investigating the murder. In Italian with English subtitles. This two-disc special edition retails for $39.95.

“THE SARAH SILVERMAN PROGRAM” — SEASON TWO, VOLUME ONE (Comedy Central Home Entertainment/Paramount Home Entertainment): The first six episodes from the 2007 season of the popular Comedy Central series starring comedienne Sarah Silverman as “herself,” with her real-life older sister Laura playing her younger sister on the series. This boxed set, which includes digital shorts and behind-the-scenes footage, retails for $26.99.

“SCOTT BAIO IS 45… AND SINGLE!” (Anchor Bay Entertainment): All eight episodes from the 2007 season of the reality series following the adventures of TV star Scott Baio. This two-DVD set retails for $19.97.

“SCOTT BAIO IS 46 & PREGNANT” (Anchor Bay Entertainment): All nine episodes from the 2007 season of the second reality series (see above), in which TV star Scott Baio discovers he’s going to be a dad. This two-DVD set retails for $19.97.

“SOUTH PARK: THE CULT OF CARTMAN” (Comedy Central Home Entertainment/ Paramount Home Entertainment): A selection of 12 episodes from Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s long-running, award-winning, everpopular Comedy Central animated series — each one focusing on the foul-mouthed, overweight and bigoted Eric Cartman (voiced by Parker). Cartman himself introduces each segment of this special-edition DVD, which retails for $26.99.

“SPORTS NIGHT: THE COMPLETE SERIES 10 TH -ANNIVERSARY EDITION” (Shout! Factory): All 45 episodes from the criticallyacclaimed, award-winning ABC-TV situation comedy that ran from 1998-2000, and detailed the behind-the-scenes goings-on at a busy cable sports network. The ensemble cast includes Josh Charles, Felicity Huffman, Robert Guillaime, Sabrina Lloyd and Josh Malina. During its run, the series earned three Emmy Awards out of eight nominations. This boxed set, which retails for $69.99, includes retrospective interviews with both cast and crew, including series creator Aaron Sorkin.

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