Mark Burger’s Video Vault

by Mark Burger

PICK OF THE WEEK: BREAKINGNEWS (Palm Pictures/Visual Entertainment): Director Johnnie To’sfurious, fast-moving crime thriller is a quintessential example ofAsian-style cops-and-robbers, filled with ironic humor and an intenseclaustrophobia that serves it very well indeed. After theembarrassing defeat of local police by a group of bank robbers isbroadcast on television, public trust plummets. When the cops discoverthe robbers’ hideout – in a downtown Hong Kong high-rise – ambitiousyoung Inspector Fong (Kelly Chen) has the siege broadcast live ontelevision, figuring that it’s only a matter of time before thesituation is contained. She couldn’t be more wrong, as dozens ofcops (led by Nick Cheung and Hui Siu Hung) find themselves shooting itout with not one, but two gangs – the second one sent to eliminate thefirst one! Of course, several innocent tenants are taken hostage orcaught in the line of fire, and as the situation spirals out ofcontrol, the robbers (led by Richie Jen) turn the TV coverage to theiradvantage, much to the continued consternation of both police andpublic. The film incorporates sharp, sometimes satirical, pointsabout media manipulation into the story, but never at the expense ofblazing action. It’s like Die Hard with social commentary, and it’s anabsolute knockout. (In Mandarin and Cantonese with English subtitles).***’ ALSO ON DVD ACES ‘N’ EIGHTS (GeniusProducts): It isn’t John Ford and it isn’t Clint Eastwood, but Westernfans will get their fill from this fast-moving shoot-’em-up pittingranchers (including Casper Van Dien and Bruce Boxleitner) against theminions of an unscrupulous railroad tycoon (William Atherton). JeffKober, Jack Noseworthy, Deirdre Quinn and the indomitable ErnestBorgnine also saddle up for this enjoyable melodrama. **’ BEFORETHE DEVIL KNOWS YOU’RE DEAD (THINKFilm/Image Entertainment): Troubledbrothers Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke (both superb) decide toturn their financial fortunes around by robbing a jewelry store – theone owned by their mother (Winston-Salem’s own Rosemary Harris) andfather (the peerless Albert Finney)… that’s just the beginning ofthis sprawling, deeply emotional, flawlessly acted family thrillerdirected with unparalleled verve and nerve by Sidney Lumet and writtenwith supreme, sharp assurance by first-timer (!) Kelly Masterson.Marisa Tomei, Amy Ryan, Michael Shannon, Aleksa Palladino (welcomeback!), Bryan O’Byrne and Leonardo DiCimino add indelible supportingmoments in what was one of 2007’s very best – and most overlooked -films. It won some awards but not nearly enough of them. Pretty damnednear perfect. Don’t rent it; buy it. Rated R. **** BORDER LOST(Allumination FilmWorks): Writer/producer/directors Scott Peck andDavid Murphy’s feature debut is a gritty shoot-’em-up, inspired byactual events (according to the opening legend), pitting maverickborder cops against an illegal immigration ring. This topical butoverly familiar melodrama does boast a kinetic style not unlike that ofSteven Soderbergh, Oliver Stone or William Friedkin. Interesting, butoften distracting, use of subtitles. Rated R. ** EMPLOYEE OF THEMONTH (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Rivals Dane Cook and Dax Shepardvie for the title honor – and the honor of wooing buxom new cashierJessica Simpson, who (rumor has it) only dates the employee of themonth. Enthusiastic performances, especially those of Efren Ramirez (asShepard’s toady) and Andy Dick, keep this flimsy farce watchable, butit goes on way too long. Still, any film with the ’80s classic”Surrender” (performed over the end credits by Camp Freddy) can’t beall bad. Rated PG-13. ** “FATHER KNOWS BEST” – SEASON ONE(Shout! Factory): All 26 episodes from the 1954-’55 season of the TVsitcom spun off from Robert Young’s popular radio show. This remainsone of the few television shows to have run on all three of the majornetworks. This boxed set, which retails for $34.99, includesbehind-the-scenes footage, interviews with co-stars Elinor Donahue andLauren Chapin, and the never-before-seen episode “24 Hours inTyrantland,” which was commissioned by the Department of the Treasuryin an effort to sell bonds. GRIZZLY RAGE (Genius Products): Dumbteenagers on a camping excursion accidentally run over a bear cub, andMama Bear is none to happy about it… but she’s plenty hungry.Director David DeCoteau is an old hand at this sort of thing, so heknows the drill. It may be stupid, but it moves. ** HEEBIEJEEBIES (LionsGate Home Entertainment): The feature debut ofwriter/producer/directors Doug Evans an Michael Hawkins-Burgos (whoalso co-star) is a low-budget horror anthology centering around thedire psychic visions of a young girl (Bobbie Jo Westphall)… which allcome horrifyingly true. There are a few novel tricks, and give the castand crew a few points for trying something different, but this ispretty weak overall. Still, it might be nice to hear from thesefilmmakers again. Rated R. *’ “HIYA, KIDS!! – A ’50S SATURDAYMORNING” (Shout! Factory): A compilation of 21 complete episodes ofpopular children’s shows from the 1950s, including “Howdy Dowdy,””Kukla, Fran and Ollie,” “The Rootie Kazootie Club,” “Winky Dink andYou,” “Andy’s Gang,” “The Pinky Lee Show,” “The Paul Winchell Show,””Super Circus” and many others. This 4-DVD boxed set retails for $34.99. MADMONEY (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Director Callie Khouri’s pallid capercomedy (and remake of a British TV movie) stars Diane Keaton, KatieHolmes and Queen Latifah as three ladies who supplement their incomesby stealing soon-to-be-destroyed currency from the Federal ReserveBank. Rated PG-13. *’ MIST: THE TALE OF A SHEEPDOG PUPPY(Allumination FilmWorks): The title tells all in this cute, sometimesprecious adaptation of David Kennard’s story, narrated by Derek Jacobiand aimed squarely at the family audience. Mel Giedroyc provides thevoice of Mist, and author Kennard appears as “the Boss.” This launcheda popular children’s TV series in the UK. ** “THE MUPPET SHOW”- THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment):All 24 episodes from the 1978-’79 season of the perennially popularcomedy/variety show featuring Jim Henson’s Muppets and such guest starsas Sylvester Stallone, Raquel Welch, Gilda Radner, Alice Cooper, KrisKristofferson and Rita Coolidge (husband and wife at the time), HarryBelafonte and Danny Kaye. The show picked up an Emmy nomination thatseason as outstanding comedy/variety or music program. This boxed setretails for $39.99. THE NEW MAVERICK (Warner Home Video): JamesGarner and Jack Kelly return as brothers and cardsharps Bret and BartMaverick in this easy-going 1978 reunion movie that introduced CharlesFrank as Ben Maverick and spawned the subsequent “Young Maverick”series on CBS-TV. Frank’s real-life wife, Susan Blanchard, co-starshere and joined Frank in the later series. Susan Sullivan plays PokerAlice. Garner would reprise the Bret Maverick role in the NBC series”Bret Maverick” in the early ’80s, and then starred with Mel Gibson andJodie Foster in the 1994 feature film. **’ OVER HER DEAD BODY(New Line Home Entertainment): After dying in a wedding-day mishap, EvaLongoria Parker tries to prevent her fianc’ (Paul Rudd) from romancinga sexy, part-time psychic (Lake Bell) that he’s consulted in his grief.Sitcom veteran Jeff Lowell makes his feature directorial debut andprovides the voice of the parrot, but this updated (and unacknowledged)version of Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit just isn’t funny. Rated PG-13. * “SPEEDRACER, THE NEXT GENERATION: THE BEGINNING” (LionsGate HomeEntertainment): Just in time for the big-budget, live-action summerfilm comes the feature-length pilot for the animated version of theNickelodeon’s cable-TV series, focusing on the mechanized misadventuresof Speed Racer’s orphaned son. This DVD, which retails for $19.98,includes a promotional featurette, an interactive racing game, and eventips on fuel efficiency (nice touch). STRANGE WILDERNESS(Paramount Home Entertainment): Steve Zahn heads a colossally funnycast in this colossally unfunny spoof of nature programs, in which agroup of colossally inept documentary filmmakers attempt to uncover theexistence of Bigfoot. Jonah Hill, Allen Covert, Justin Long, HarryHamlin, Robert Patrick, Joe Don Baker, Jeff Garlin, Peter Dante andeven the great Ernest Borgnine can’t save it. A colossally missedopportunity… Rated R. * “THE TOM SELLECK WESTERN COLLECTION”(Warner Home Video): A trio of made-for-TNT Westerns starring TomSelleck (also executive producer of all three): The award-winning 1997adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s Last Stand at Saber River co-stars SuzyAmis and real-life siblings David and Keith Carradine; theaward-winning adaptation of Louis L’Amour’s Crossfire Trail (2001)co-stars Virginia Madsen, Mark Harmon and Wilford Brimley; and theaward-winning 2003 remake of Monte Walsh, based on Jack Schaffer’snovel, stars Selleck in the title role along with Isabella Rossellini,George Eads and real-life siblings Keith and Robert Carradine, andearned an Emmy nomination for outstanding sound editing for amini-series, movie or special. This boxed set retails for $19.97,individual titles for $14.98. Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92.