Mark Burger’´s VIDEO VAULT

by Mark Burger

CLINT EASTWOOD: AMERICAN ICON (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): This DVD boxed set ($19.98 retail) includes four films made by Clint Eastwood during the 1970s, when he was just cementing his status as a box-office superstar and cementing the foundation of becoming, as the title of this collection implies, an American icon. Eastwood’s first collaboration with director and mentor Don Siegel was in 1968’s Coogan’s Bluff, a highly enjoyable melodrama with Eastwood as an Arizona cop sent to New York City to bring back a fugitive (Don Stroud). When said fugitive escapes, Coogan takes the Big Apple by storm in pursuit of his man. Eastwood and Siegel also collaborated on The Beguiled (1971), a bizarre but effective psychological thriller set against the backdrop of the Civil War. Although a box-office flop upon its release, the film has since been re-evaluated and become a cult classic. Taking the reins himself, Eastwood made his directorial debut in 1971 with Play Misty for Me, a classic thriller in which he plays a misogynistic disc jockey stalked by a psychopathic fan (Jessica Walter). This was Fatal Attraction 15 years before — and considerably better. With the 1975 adaptation of The Eiger Sanction, Eastwood treads into James Bond territory as superspy Jonathan Hemlock, bent on avenging the assassination of a former colleague. The mountain-climbing sequences in Monument Valley are truly hair-raising, but like the subsequent Firefox, spy-jinks really weren’t Eastwood’s bag. It’s not an awful movie, just an average one. All of the films are rated R.

ALSO ON DVD THE ALPHABET KILLER (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Eliza Dushku (also an associate producer) portrays a cop who becomes obsessed with a murder case, especially when she begins experiencing psychic visions of the crime. Inspired by an actual (and unsolved) case in Rochester, NY, this isn’t bad — but guessing the killer’s identity is too easy. Also on hand: Timothy Hutton, Cary Elwes, Michael Ironside, Melissa Leo (an Oscar nominee this year for Frozen River), Martin Donovan, Carl Lumbly, Tom Noonan and writer/producer Tom Malloy. Rated R. **

AN AMERICAN GIRL: CLARISSA STANDS STRONG (HBO Home Entertainment): Martha Coolidge directed this adaptation of Mary Casanova’s children’s novel — the latest in a successful series of “American Girl” stories — depicting the adventures of a young girl (Sammi Hanraty) who moves to a new town and must contend with a clique of school bullies. Annabeth Gish and Timothy Bottoms play Clarissa’s parents. This familyfriendly DVD retails for $24.98.

BEETHOVEN’S BIG BREAK (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): The latest in the ongoing saga of a mischievous, slobbering St. Bernard — the sixth, for those keeping score at home — is about a mischievous, slobbering St. Bernard that becomes the star of a Hollywood movie about a mischievous, slobbering St. Bernard. Yes, it’s the old “movie-within-amovie” scenario, and despite a better-thanaverage cast (including Jonathan Silverman, Stephen Tobolowsky, Eddie Griffin and Rhea Perlman), this goes on a bit longer than necessary. Besides, did we really need another Beethoven movie? Rated PG. *’½

BUTCH AND SUNDANCE: THE EARLY YEARS (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Director Richard Lester’s 1979 Western “prequel” recounts the initial team-up of outlaws Butch Cassidy (Tom Berenger) and the Sundance Kid (William Katt). The original film is a hard act to follow, but this is amiable enough — especially when not directly compared. Lots of familiar faces on hand: Jill Eikenberry, Brian Dennehy, Peter Weller, Christopher Lloyd, John Schuck, Vincent Schiavelli, an unbilled Arthur Hill, and Jeff Corey (reprising his role as Sheriff Ray Bledsoe). Oscar nomination for best costume design. Rated PG. **’½

CHRIS ROCK: KILL THE MESSENGER (HBO Home Entertainment): The awardwinning comedian weighs in on politics, race relations, parenthood and much more in his fifth solo stand-up show for HBO. The single-disc edition retails for $19.97 and a three-disc collector’s edition for $29.98.

CITY OF EMBER (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): This gorgeously designed adaptation of Jeanne Duprau’s best-selling series of fantasy novels is set in a subterranean city of the future, where three children (played by Saoirse Ronan, Harry Treadaway and twins Amy and Catherine Quinn) defy the corrupt mayor (Bill Murray) and make a break for freedom – to the surface world above. Although frequently overwhelmed by the production design (which is spectacular), this deserved a fate at the box-office. The good cast also includes Martin Landau (whom I interviewed for the film’s release), Tim Robbins, Toby Jones, Mary Kay Place and Marianne Jean- Baptiste. Rated PG. **’½

“CURIOUS GEORGE”: MONKEY COLLECTION — VOLUME 1 (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): A four- DVD boxed set ($39.98 retail) including 32 episodes from the Emmy Award-winning, animated PBS Kids series based on the best-selling series of children’s book by HA Rey. In addition, Universal Studios Home Entertainment offers additional monkey business with “Curious George: Robot Monkey and More Great Gadgets,” a selection of 8 episodes from the PBS Kids series, which retails for $16.98.

CYCLOPS (Anchor Bay Entertainment): A CGI cyclops (replete with CGI loincloth) battles imprisoned slaves in ancient Rome, which is lorded over by Eric Roberts (camping it up big-time) as the Emperor Tiberius. Pretty stupid, but there are some laughs. Produced by Roger and Julie Corman. *’½

THE GREATEST STORIES OF MICHIGAN STATE BASKETBALL (Genius Products): Commemorating the 30 th anniversary of the Spartans’ 1979 national championship, this documentary traces the history of Michigan State’s basketball team, which also won the 2000 championship and whose roster over the years has included the likes of Scott Skiles, Steve Smith and, of course, Earvin “Magic” Johnson. This special-edition DVD retails for $24.95.

THE HULK VS. (LionsGate Home Entertainment): A twin bill of animated features in which the green- (and thick- ) skinned behemoth is pitted against fellow Marvel Comics heroes: The Hulk vs. Wolverine and The Hulk vs. Thor. The standard-edition DVD retails for $19.98, the special-edition DVD for $24.98, and the Bluray edition for $29.99. Rated PG-13.

MAMMA MIA! THE MOVIE (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): A bubbly, kitschy big-screen adaptation of the Broadway musical, with Meryl Streep as a hotelier on a sun-kissed Greek island who plans the wedding of her only daughter (Amanda Seyfried), but is shocked when her daughter invites three of Mom’s old boyfriends (Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgard) — one of whom is her father. All of this is set to the songs of ABBA, so if you’re not a fan, steer clear. I’m all man but have a definite soft spot for ABBA, and the enthusiasm of the cast (also including Julie Walters and Christine Baranski) is infectious. The feature directorial debut of Phyllida Lloyd. Available as a single-disc DVD ($29.98 retail), a two-disc special edition ($34.98 retail), or as a Blu-ray disc ($39.98 retail). Rated PG-13. ***

“MY WIFE AND KIDS”: SEASON ONE (LionsGate Home Entertainment): All 12 episodes from the inaugural 2001 season of the award-winning, prime-time ABC-TV situation comedy starring Damon Wayans (also an executive producer) as an all- American dad continually driven crazy by his family. This two-disc set retails for $29.98.

NANNY INSANITY (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Irritating comedy, evidently based on an actual story, with Cynthia Preston and Larry Dorf as a young couple who hire an Ukrainian immigrant (Alla Korot) to be their nanny and housekeeper, but she proceeds to take advantage of the opportunity and wreak havoc in their lives. Originally titled Domestic Import, but “Nanny Inanity” would have sufficed. Rated PG-13 ‘½*

PALO PINTO GOLD (Monarch Home Video): Mild, low-budget Western set in 1880s’ Texas, with Glynn Praesel (not bad) as a lawman gone bad. Leading man Anthony Henslee also wrote, produced, edited and directed the film, which also features Roy Clark and Mel Tillis (together again!), Kinky Friedman (as the Governor of Texas — an office he actually ran for), and former Dallas Cowboys player Jay Novacek. Faster pacing (and less slow-motion) would’ve helped immensely. Rated PG-13. *’½

PETER SELLERS 5-FILM COLLECTION (LionsGate Home Entertainment): A collection of five films starring the inimitable Peter Sellers (1925-1980), all of them preceding his ascent to international stardom: Basil Dearden’s The Smallest Show on Earth (1957) co-stars Margaret Rutherford and the real-life couple Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna; starring with Terry-Thomas and Ian Bannen in Carlton- Browne of the F.O. (1959); John Boulting’s 1959 adaptation of I’m All Right Jack (also ’59), which co-stars Richard Attenborough, Terry-Thomas and Rutherford, for which Sellers won the BAFTA Award as best actor; planning the perfect crime — while incarcerated in prison — in Robert Day’s Two-Way Stretch (1960); and co-starring with Brock Peters, Eric Sykes, Cecil Parker and Irene Handl in John and Roy Boulting’s 1963 comedy Heavens Above!. This boxed set retails for $39.98.

RED MIST (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Director Paddy Breathnach’s gory, awardwinning shocker (originally titled FreakDog) sees a group of medical students falling prey to the comatose victim of a prankgone-wrong, who’s developed the ability to project his murderous rage into those around him. Silly but well-made. Filmed in Northern Ireland. The cast includes Stephen Dillane (who hasn’t much to do) and Arielle Kebbel (who looks good doing whatever). **

ROOM 6 (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Christine Taylor — who screams well and has plenty of opportunities in which to do it — plays a woman desperately seeking her fiance (Shane Brolly) after he’s been injured in a car accident and spirited away to a haunted hospital. Unless you’ve been asleep the first half of the movie — which is not impossible — you can see the “twist ending” of this dull shocker a mile away. Also on hand: Jerry O’Connell (understandably bored), Ellie Cornell, John Billingsley, Jack Riley, Marshall Bell, Kane Hodder, Lisa Ann Walter, and Playboy Playmates Stacy Fuson and Katie Lohman. *

THAT BEAUTIFUL SOMEWHERE (Monarch Home Video): A disillusioned detective (Roy Dupuis) and an equally troubled forensic archaeologist (Jane McGregor) establish a bond while investigating the discovery of a body in this brooding but disjointed drama, based on A.W. Plumstead’s novel “Loon.” Too ambitious for its own good, but a noble attempt. Rated R. **

THE TROUBLE WITH DEE DEE (Monarch Home Video): Scatter-brained (and scattershot) comedy with Lisa Ann Walter as an abrasive heiress who is cut off by her fed-up father (Kurtwood Smith) and must fend for herself, discovering along the way the important things in life. Yes, this is one of those kinds of movies…. Rated R. *’½

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