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Mark Burger’´s VIDEO VAULT

by Mark Burger

THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE (The Criterion Collection): One of the unsung, underrated crime dramas of its decade, Peter Yates’ 1973 adaptation of the George V. Higgins bestselling novel gets a longoverdue special-edition treatment.

In one of his best performances, Robert Mitchum plays the title role, that of a middleaged, low-level criminal desperate to avoid a third trip to prison. This puts him in a precarious position, having to deal with his fellow gangsters and also as an informant for the police, who want him to testify against them. Either way, Eddie’s damned — he just doesn’t know it. Brilliantly filmed on location in Boston (which has never looked grittier), The Friends of Eddie Coyle never glamorizes the criminal lifestyle, opting instead for a more melancholy and realistic depiction of these unsavory characters. You’re not likely to sympathize with them, but you do gain an understanding of who they are and the treacherous world in which they live. Everyone’s got an angle — from a corrupt undercover cop (Richard Jordan) to a local barkeep (Peter Boyle) with a lethal side business — everyone, that is, except poor Eddie. And as the film moves toward its inexorable conclusion, it becomes tragically clear that Eddie Coyle has no friends. This is a sad, somber crime saga, and first-rate in every respect. Rated R. ***’½

ALSO ON DVD BACK TO THE FUTURE (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): Having only been previously available in a boxed set, Universal now reissues each installment of its popular time-travel trilogy on DVD, replete with plenty of special features. Robert Zemeckis directed all three films (1985, 1989 and 1990), which all starred Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly and Christopher Lloyd as Dr. Emmett Brown. Just for the record, the first film was by far the best, but all three rang up sizable receipts at the boxoffice. Each film is rated PG and each DVD retails for $19.98.

BIG STAN (HBO Home Entertainment): Rob Schneider co-produced, makes his feature directorial debut, and stars in this ribald comedy about a con man whose impending prison stint compels him to eventually become a better human being. Yes, this is one of those kinds of films, and although there are some funny moments and Schneider is fairly ingratiating in the title role, it feels endless. Lots of familiar faces on hand: Scott Wilson (as a corrupt warden), David Carradine, Jennifer Morrison, Sally Kirkland, Richard Riehle, Dan Haggerty, Richard Kind, Marcia Wallace, M. Emmet Walsh (with a hilarious toupee) and such real-life martial-arts fighters as Randy Coutoure, Dan Inosanto, Simon Rhee and Don Frye. Rated R. *’½

THE CENTERFOLD GIRLS (Dark Sky Films): Clad in black suit with sneakers, a bespectacled Andrew Prine plays a lowrent Norman Bates in this 1974 drive-in favorite about a loony mama’s boy who stalks and slays the beauties who posed nude for Bachelor Magazine. Admittedly, on an exploitation level, this misogynistic junk does deliver the nudity, violence and excess that the title promises — as well as a cast of familiar faces: Tiffany Bolling, Francine York, Ray Danton, Aldo Ray, Mike Mazurki, Jaime Lyn Bauer and Jennifer Ashley. Rated R. *’½

THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON (Paramount Home Entertainment): Director David Fincher’s imaginative, lovingly made fable follows the life of a man (Brad Pitt, who earned an Academy Award nomination as best actor) who goes through life, aging backward along the way. Extremely well-made and well-acted (especially by Pitt and Cate Blanchett, as the love of his life), but often reminiscent in structure and mood to screenwriter Eric Roth’s previous adaptation of Forrest Gump. Oscar winner for art direction/set decoration, makeup and visual effects, with additional nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress (Taraji P. Henson), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Editing, Best Sound, Bes Original score and Best Costume Design. Available in a single-disc edition ($29.98 retail), a Blu-ray disc ($39.99 retail) or as a two-disc Criterion Collection special edition ($34.98 retail). Rated PG-13. ***

“EARTH: FINAL CONFLICT” — SEASON ONE (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): All 22 episodes from the 1997-’98 season of the awardwinning, syndicated science-fiction series, based on an idea by the late “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry, depicting the worldwide war that erupts in the 21 st century (Uh-oh!) after a race of aliens comes to Earth, supposedly in peace. “Supposedly…” The regular cast that season included Von Flores, Leni Parker, Lisa Howard, Kevin Kilner and Roddenberry’s widow (and fellow “Trek“ alum) actress Majel Barrett. Emmy nominations for outstanding cinematography for a series (for the episode “Float Like a Butterfly”) and main title theme music. This DVD boxed set, which includes such special features as commentaries, a retrospective documentary and an introduction by technical advisor Eugene “Rod” Roddenberry (Gene’s son), retails for $59.98.

“THE FALL AND RISE OF REGINALD PERRIN” — THE COMPLETE SERIES (E1 Entertainment): Leonard Rossiter assumes the title role in all 21 episodes from the critically-acclaimed BBC-TV comedy series (which ran 1976-’79), about a sales executive who indulges his mid-life crisis by faking his own suicide and attempting to start his life over again in a variety of new identities, only to decide his misses his old life and attempt a reconciliation with his wife (Pauline Yates). This boxed set retails for $59.98.

“FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS” — SEASON THREE (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): All 13 episodes from the 2008-’09 season of the award-winning, prime-time NBC-TV drama set in a small, close-knit Texas town where high-school football reigns supreme. This boxed set, which includes audio commentaries and deleted scenes, retails for $29.98.

HOUSE (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Not to be confused with the 1986 horror spoof or the current TV series, this adaptation of Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti’s Christian-themed horror novel sees two couples trapped in the title locale and forced to confront their past sins if they are to survive the night. Think Saw with a moral compass. Well-shot, but the characters are both stupid and unlikable — a deadly combination. Still, Michael Madsen (as a loony lawman) gets to utter the line “I’m pure evil — 100 percent” as only he can. Genre veterans Leslie Easterbrook and Bill Moseley are also residents of this House, but they can only do so much. Rated R. *’½

JOHNNY WAS (First Look Home Entertainment): Director Mark Hammond makes a noteworthy feature debut with this entertaining, if selfindulgently talky, British gangster saga starring Vinnie Jones in the title role, that of an ex-con whose attempts to stay on the straight and narrow are complicated by escaped cons, Jamaican drug dealers and sexy neighbors (like Samantha Mumba). Patrick Bergin is terrific as an IRA operative from Johnny’s past, and former boxing champ Lennox Lewis is hilarious as a spliff-smoking reggae deejay who lives upstairs. Roger Daltrey, Eriq LaSalle and Laurence Kinlan also appear. Rated R. **’½

MY BEST FRIEND IS A VAMPIRE (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Robert Sean Leonard plays a suburban teenager bitten by beauteous bloodsucker Cecilia Peck in this lame teen comedy. The supporting cast includes cute Cheryl Pollak, Rene Auberjonois, Paul Willson, Fannie Flagg, Kathy Bates and David Warner (as the resident vampire hunter), which is the main reason yours truly paid to see this back in 1988. I was not amused. Rated PG. *

“SISTER, SISTER” — THE SECOND SEASON (CBS DVD/Paramount Home Entertainment): Tia and Tamera Mowry are back for more “double trouble” in all 19 episodes from the 1994-’95 season of the prime-time situation comedy (first broadcast on ABC-TV and then on the WB Television Network) about the misadventures of mischievous teenaged twins. Emmy Award winner for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Lighting Direction for a Comedy Series (for the episode “It’s a Love Thang”). This boxed set retails for $36.98.

W. (LionsGate Home Entertainment): With a winning combination of conviction and sincerity, Josh Brolin portrays the 43 rd president in Oliver Stone’s uneven (but never uninteresting) combination of fact and speculation in detailing the life and career of George W. Bush. It doesn’t always come together, but it’s got some fascinating moments along the way — along with a starstudded cast that also includes James Cromwell (as George HW Bush), Ellen Burstyn (as Barbara Bush), Elizabeth Banks (as Laura Bush), Toby Jones (as Karl Rove), Scott Glenn (as Donald Rumsfeld), Jeffrey Wright (as Colin Powell), Stacy Keach, Bruce McGill, Noah Wyle, Thandie Newton (a dead ringer for Condoleezza Rice) and a particularly scary Richard Dreyfuss as Dick Cheney. Rated PG-13. **’½

WENDY AND LUCY (Oscilloscope Laboratories): Essentially A Girl and Her Dog, screenwriter/editor/director Kelly Reichardt’s award-winning, effectively modest low-budget drama stars Michelle Williams (in one of her best performances to date) as a young drifter whose attempts to make her way to Alaska with her faithful dog hit a snag when her car breaks down. The executive producers include Todd Haynes and Winston-Salem’s own Phil Morrison (of Junebug renown). Rated R. ***

WHILE SHE WAS OUT (Anchor Bay Entertainment): On Christmas Eve, a beleagured suburban housewife (executive producer Kim Basinger) is forced to defend herself against a group of sadistic thugs (led by a miscast Lukas Haas) in this well-made but onedimensional exploitation thriller based on an Edward Bryant short story. There are 19(!) producers credited, including Don Murphy and executive producer Guillermo del Toro. Rated R. *’½

WINTER OF FROZEN DREAMS (Monterey Media): Based on Karl Harter’s true-crime best-seller, this extremely low-key police procedural stars Thora Birch (in an inscrutable performance) as Barbara Hoffman, a brilliant Wisconsin college student and part-time prostitute convicted of murdering her much-older fiance. Nice work from Keith Carradine and Leo Fitzpatrick as the cops on her case, but this is best suited to the small screen. Rated R. **

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

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