Mark Burger’´s VIDEO VAULT
NICKELODEON AND THE LAST PICTURE SHOW DOUBLE FEATURE
(Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): This Peter Bogdanovich twin bill includes the DVD debut of the director’s 1976 comedy Nickelodeon (**’½), both in its t zheatrical form and a black-and-white director’s cut. Upon its release, Nickelodeon was neither a hit or a flop, but was still the filmmaker’s last studio picture for quite some time. Set in the earliest days of Hollywood moviemaking, the film is both a salute to the pioneers of the industry and also a send-up — and, despite some genuinely bright and funny moments, it never quite settles into a steady groove as either one. Nevertheless, the cast is game: Ryan and Tatum O’Neal, Burt Reynolds, Stella Stevens, John Ritter, Brian Keith and Jane Hitchcock (in her first and only feature film), whom the studio insisted that Bogdanovich cast instead of his on- and off-screen muse, Cybill Shepherd. Nickelodeon doesn’t quite hit the target, but it’s not for lack of trying. Rated PG. The double feature also includes the previously released director’s cut of Bogdanovich’s excellent 1971 adaptation of The Last Picture Show (***’½), which marked a major turning point in the career of its director and its principal actors: Jeff Bridges, Timothy Bottoms, Ellen Burstyn, Cybill Shepherd (in her screen debut), Eileen Brennan, Randy Quaid (in his screen debut) and veterans Ben Johnson and Cloris Leachman, who won the Academy Awards as best supporting actor and supporting actress, respectively. A melancholy adaptation of Larry McMurtry’s best-selling novel depicting life in a dying Texas town ca. 1951, the film also earned Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Bridges), Best Supporting Actress (Burstyn), Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Cinematography. Many consider it still Bogdanovich’s best picture. Rated R.
ALSO ON DVD
BRITISH CINEMA COLLECTION: VOLUME 2 — COMEDIES (VCI Entertainment): The mood is light in this selection of five films ($29.99 retail) from the “good old days” of British comedies: Joan Collins stars in 1953’s Our Girl Friday (retitled The Adventures of Sadie in the US), adapted from an Ernest K. Gann novel by director Noel Langley and costarring Kenneth More and George Cole; comedian Frankie Howerd made his feature debut opposite Margaret Rutherford and Petula Clark in writer/director Val Guest’s The Runaway Bus (1954); Richard Hearn headlines The Time of His Life (1955); David Tomlinson stars in Guest’s 1957 adaptation of the play Carry On Admiral (AKA The Ship Was Loaded), which isn’t part of the famous “Carry On” film series; and Dentist in the Chair (1960), adapted from Matthew Finch’s novel by Guest and directed by Don Chaffey, stars Bob Monkhouse and Kenneth Connor.
ESCAPE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): To commemorate the recent Race to Witch Mountain, the studio has released a special edition of the original 1975 film, which starred Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann as orphaned siblings who possess unearthly powers. This was one of Disney’s most popular live-action films of the decade. Welldirected by John Hough (who provides an audio commentary), with such seasoned veterans as Ray Milland, Eddie Albert and Donald Pleasence adding a touch of class. Rated G. ***
FASHION IN FILM (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Ilyana Kadushin narrates this flashy documentary (originally broadcast as part of the Starz Inside documentary series) that examines the mutual inspiration between fashion and film, and how together they frequently influence the culture. Glaring error: Keira Knightley looked great in Atonement, but she didn’t receive an Oscar nomination for it. **’½
“HAWAII FIVE-0” — THE SIXTH SEASON (CBS DVD/Paramount Home Entertainment): All 24 episodes from the 1973-’74 season of the long-running, prime-time CBS-TV police drama starring the inimitable Jack Lord as top cop Steve McGarrett, battling crime on a weekly basis on the lovely islands of Hawaii. That season, the series earned three Emmy nominations and won for best music composition (for the episode “Hookman”). This boxed set retails for $49.99.
“IMAGINATION MOVERS” WAREHOUSE MOUSE EDITION (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): Four episodes from the popular, ongoing Playhouse Disney children’s series focusing on the problem-solving adventures of four rock ‘n’ rolling handymen (Rich Collins, Scott Durbin, David Poche and Scott Smith). This DVD retails for $19.99.
LAST CHANCE HARVEY (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Dustin Hoffman plays Harvey, a disillusioned and restless middleaged man whose trip to London for his daughter’s wedding is greatly improved when he meets Emma Thompson, a workaholic spinster. The two leads give this not-unpredictable bittersweet comedy a big boost. Rated PG-13. **’½
MAX FLEISCHER SUPERMAN (Warner Home Video): Before George Reeves and Christopher Reeve, DC Comics’ “Man of Steel” first hit the big screen in a series of animated Technicolor shorts during the early 1940s, the first of which earned an Academy Award nomination as Best Short Subject (cartoon). This special-edition, twodisc collection ($26.99 retail) includes all 17 shorts as well as bonus documentaries about the series and the legendary Fleischer Studios, which produced the series.
MICKEY MOUSE CLUBHOUSE: MICKEY’S BIG SPLASH (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): A selection of four episodes from the top-rated Playhouse Disney cartoon series featuring many of the classic characters: Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Pluto and, my personal favorite, Donald Duck. (Daisy’s there, too.) This special-edition DVD, which includes a bonus game, retails for $19.99.
MY FRIENDS TIGGER AND POOH: TIGGER, POOH AND A MUSICAL TOO (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): A full-length musical feature ($26.99 retail) inspired by the popular, animated Playhouse Disney children’s series, based on the classic books by AA Milne. All the beloved characters are here: Tigger, Piglet, Rabbit and Winnie the Pooh, too!
NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (Miramax Films/Paramount Vantage/Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): A collector’s edition of Joel and Ethan Coen’s superlative 2007 adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s best-seller, a powerfully rendered parable about greed, retribution and honor (or the lack thereof, in the latter case) — as a drug deal gone bad sets into a motion a series of violent and fateful encounters that involve a none-too-bright Vietnam veteran (Josh Brolin) who’s in way over his head, a veteran sheriff (Tommy Lee Jones) who’s out of his time, and a fearsome hit-man (Javier Bardem) who’s out of his mind. This time, the Academy Awards got it right: Best Picture, Best Director(s), Best Supporting Actor (Bardem, as the scariest screen villain since Hannibal Lecter) and adapted screenplay, with additional nominations for editing, sound, sound editing and cinematography. It was a box-office hit, so audiences got it right, too. Excellent in support: Woody Harrelson, Kelly Macdonald, Tess Harper, Barry Corbin and Stephen Root. Pretty perfect all around, although some are unsettled by its coldbloodedness. (Not my problem.) The threedisc DVD retails for $32.99 and the two-disc Blu-ray for $39.99. Both include a bonus digital copy. Rated R. ****
NOT EASILY BROKEN (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Morris Chestnut (also an executive producer) and Taraji P. Henson portray a couple in marital turmoil in producer/director Bill Duke’s adaptation of the best-selling novel by Bishop TD Jakes (who also produced and appears). By keeping the inspirational material within the context of the story keeps this well-acted, well-directed soap opera on track. Rated PG-13. **’½
THE NOTE II: TAKING A CHANCE ON LOVE (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Genie Francis and Ted McGinley return in this follow-up to the top-rated 2007 Hallmark Channel adaptation of Angela Hunt’s best-selling novel, once again following a newspaper advice columnist and her encounters — both personal and professional — with matters of the heart. Agreeable performances help, but the second half tends to stray heavily into tearjerker territory. That didn’t hurt the ratings. Katie Boland and Genelle Williams also encore from the first film. Set in North Carolina but clearly filmed north of the border — in Canada. **
“OCTOBER ROAD” — THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): All 13 episodes from the 2007-’08 (and final) season of the prime-time ABC-TV drama starring Bryan Greenberg as a best-selling author who returns to his home town to reconnect with old friends and repair old emotional scars. Other series regulars include Laura Prepon, Odette Yustman and Tom Berenger. This special-edition DVD boxed set ($34.99 retail) includes an exclusive segment that wraps up the story’s loose ends.
“THE PAPER CHASE” — SEASON ONE (Shout! Factory): John Houseman reprises his Oscar-winning role as the imperious Prof. Charles Kingsfield in all 22 episodes from the 1978-’79 season of the primetime CBS-TV series based on the 1973 film, depicting the emotional and academic rigors experienced by students at an Ivy League law school. Despite critical acclaim and three Emmy nominations (including outstanding dramatic series), the show lasted only one season on network television before making a comeback on PBS and then Showtime. First-season guest stars include Kim Cattrall, Marilu Henner, Denise Nicholas, June Havoc and Robert Reed. This DVD boxed set retails for $49.99.
RETURN TO WITCH MOUNTAIN (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): The 1975 film (see above) was a hit, so Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann reunited with director John Hough for this 1978 sequel, in which the children encounter criminal masterminds Bette Davis and Christopher Lee — who was the main reason I saw this in the theater at age 9. Also on hand: Anthony James, Denver Pyle (back from the first film) and “Barney Miller” veteran Jack Soo (in his final film). A TV series and TV remake followed before this year’s reboot. Rated G. ***
“SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK! EARTH” (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): The award-winning Saturday-morning cartoon series from the 1970s is updated for this 21stcentury edition ($26.99 retail), which focuses on ecological and environmental concerns.
VIBES (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Jeff Goldblum and Cyndi Lauper (in her screen debut) star in this disastrously unfunny 1988 comedy about a pair of psychics who embark on a quest for hidden treasure in Ecuador. Lots of talented people on hand: Peter Falk, Julian Sands, Elizabeth Pena, Michael Lerner, Steve Buscemi, Bill McCutcheon, Park Overall, John Kapelos, Max Perlich, Van Dyke Parks and Karen Akers (in her last film to date) — but it’s dead on arrival. Not surprisingly (but deservedly), this was a huge box-office flop. Rated PG. *
Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2009, Mark Burger