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Mark Burger’s Video Vault

by Mark Burger

PICK OF THE WEEK: THEADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): A20th-anniversary special edition of Terry Gilliam’s expensive,expansive 1988 fantasy epic – the circumstances of whose production areevery bit as crazy as the fanciful events depicted onscreen. JohnNeville plays the dashing, if delusional (and slightly dissipated),Baron Munchausen, whose feats of heroism and adventure are exceededonly by his extravagant re-telling of them. Encountering gods, monstersand damsels in distress are all in a day’s work for the good Baron.Like any good fairy tale, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen isimaginative, wistful, splashy and even a little scary, with Gilliam’sirreverent sensibilities on full display The cheeky supportingcast includes Gilliam’s old Monty Python mate Eric Idle, JonathanPryce, Sarah Polley, the volcanic Oliver Reed (as Vulcan), the etherealUma Thurman (as Venus), Valentina Cortese, Alison Steadman and RobinWilliams (under the pseudonym “Ray D. Tutto”) as the King of the Moon.Look for Sting and Gilliam in there, too. Despite a tumultuousproduction – neither the first nor the last time that Gilliam wouldexperience that – and a half-hearted release that effectively sabotagedany chance of recouping its budget, the film did find a cult followingand earned four Academy Award nominations: Best art direction/setdecoration, visual effects, makeup and costume design. Rated PG. *** ALSO ON DVD: APRILFOOL’S DAY (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): A dullish update of the1986 slasher comedy written, produced and directed by the ButcherBrothers. The original film was okay, but this one isn’t ‘- despiteenthusiastic performances and the occasional blip of self-parody.Leading lady Taylor Cole is easy on the eyes, for sure, and keep an eyeout for Greensboro’s own R. Keith Harris in a brief role. This wasfilmed in Charlotte. This “unrated” version would easily have gotten anR. * “CLASSIC COMEDIES COLLECTION” (Warner Home Video): Sixclassic comedies from Hollywood’s golden era: George Cukor’s all-star1933 adaptation of George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber’s play Dinner atEight, with Marie Dressler, John and Lionel Barrymore, Jean Harlow andJean Hersholt; Libeled Lady (1936), with Harlow, William Powell(Harlow’s real-life beau at the time), Myrna Loy and Spencer Tracy,which earned one Academy Award nomination (the big one – best picture);Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers and Adolphe Menjou in director GregoryLa Cava’s 1937 adaptation of the Kaufman/Ferber play Stage Door, whichearned Oscar nominations for best picture, director, supporting actress(Andrea Leeds) and adapted screenplay; Hepburn and Cary Grant in HowardHawks’ Bringing Up Baby, (1938), which was a box-office flop in its daybut is now considered one of Hawks’ triumphs; Hepburn, Grant and JamesStewart (Academy Award winner for best actor) in George Cukor’s 1940adaptation of the Phillip Barry stage hit The Philadelphia Story, whichalso won an Oscar for adapted screenplay and additional nominations forbest picture, actress (Hepburn), director and supporting actress (RuthHussey); and Ernst Lubitsch’s 1942 farce To Be or Not To Be, whichearned an Oscar nomination for best original score and marked the finalfilm of Carole Lombard, killed in a plane crash shortly before thefilm’s release. The boxed set retails for $68.98, single titles rangefrom to $19.97 to $26.99. DAY OF THE DEAD (First Look Studios):Mena Suvari and Nick Cannon topline Steve Miner’s “remake” of George A.Romero’s 1985 horror classic, here transposed to a small Colorado town(actually Bulgaria) where a viral outbreak results in scores offlesh-eating zombies on the prowl. There are plenty of grisly moments(augmented by CGI) and a few good scenes, but poor scripting does ’emdead. Unlike Romero’s films, the living dead are quite agile, but abullet to the brain will still do the trick. Ving Rhames, who appearedin the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead, pops up here in an unrelated(and unnecessary) role. Despite considerable pre-release hype, thisbypassed theatrical release. Rated R. *’ DEVIL’S DEN (StarzHome Entertainment): Devon Sawa, Kelly Hu and Ken Foree are among theunlucky clientele of a strip club populated by voracious zombies inthis silly shocker that takes its (obvious) inspiration from From DuskTill Dawn. Karen Maxwell and Dawn Olivieri (whose lapdance is ahighlight) co-star. Jeff Burr directed under a pseudonym. *’ “DIANA- QUEEN OF HEARTS” (Genius Products): Richard Attenborough narratesthis retrospective documentary tracing the all-too short life of Diana,Princess of Wales (1961-1997) that was originally broadcast on NBC ayear after her death. This DVD retails for $9.95. “THE DORIS DAYCOLLECTION – VOLUME ONE” (Warner Home Video): Eight feature filmsshowcasing the talents of one of the leading ladies of the 1950s and’60s: The 1950 drama Young Man With a Horn, based on Dorothy Baker’snovel and co-starring Kirk Douglas, Lauren Bacall and Hoagy Carmichael;opposite Gene Nelson in the 1951 musical Lullaby of Broadway; playingthe title role in the 1953 musical Calamity Jane, co-starring HowardKeel as Wild Bill Hickok and an Oscar winner for best original song(“Secret Love”), with additional nominations for best score and bestsound recording; Charles Vidor’s 1955 drama Love Me or Leave Me, basedon the life of singer Ruth Etting, which won an Oscar for bestmotion-picture story and earned five additional nominations: co-starJames Cagney as best actor (the third and final nomination of hiscareer), best screenplay, best sound recording, best original song(“I’ll Never Stop Loving You”) and best score; George Abbott andStanley Donen’s 1956 adaptation of the smash Broadway musical ThePajama Game; opposite David Niven in the award-winning 1960 adaptationof Jean Kerr’s best-seller Please Don’t Eat the Daisies; oppositeStephen Boyd, Jimmy Durante, Dean Jagger, Martha Raye and an elephantin Billy Rose’s Jumbo (1962), which received an Oscar for best musicalscore; and the 1966 spy comedy The Glass Bottom Boat, co-starring RodTaylor, Arthur Godfrey and Paul Lynde. The boxed set retails for$88.98, individual titles for $19.98. DUANE HOPWOOD (HBO Video):Maybe Nicolas Cage was busy, but David Schwimmer delivers his bestbig-screen performance to date in the title role of writer/directorMatt Mulhern’s award-winning, bittersweet chronicle of a hard-drinking,divorced father trying to salvage some semblance of dignity in anuncaring world. Nice supporting work by Janeane Garofalo (as Duane’sex-wife), Susan Lynch, John Krasinski (of Leatherheads), JudahFriedlander and Dick Cavett, and great use of locations in and aroundAtlantic City. Rated R. *** THE INITIATION OF SARAH (MGM HomeEntertainment/Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): This enjoyableremake of a 1978 TV movie stars Mika Boorem as a college freshman mixedup with supernatural shenanigans when two sororities – one good and oneevil – vie for her attention. An attractive cast, in more ways thanone, also includes Jennifer Tilly, Summer Glau and Morgan Fairchild.Fun combination of cattiness and camp, but the open ending (for apotential series?) goes on a bit long. **’ IN MYCOUNTRY (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Director John Boorman’sadaptation of the best-seller Country of My Skull stars Samuel L.Jackson and Juliette Binoche as reporters covering the reconciliationhearings in South Africa just after the fall of apartheid.Well-meaning, with some powerful moments, but detours into melodramahamper the intent. Good performances help, including those of Menzi”Ngubs” Ngubane and reliable Brendan Gleeson as a South African copwith a heinous history. Rated R. ** KILLER WAVE (GeniusProducts): A series of catastrophic tsunamis ravage the planet in thisentertaining time-killer that is part-disaster movie andpart-conspiracy thriller. Angus Macfadyen is the beefy hero and KarineVanasse the lovely heroine. Originally broadcast on cable as amini-series, this boasts a fun use of split-screen imagery and sometongue-in-cheek moments to help compensate for both overlength and itssilly science-fiction wrap-up. Tom Skerritt and Stephen McHattie arealso swept up in the proceedings. ** LOCH NESS TERROR (SonyPictures Home Entertainment): Guess what just showed up in LakeSuperior? A few hints: It’s big, it’s CGI, and it eats people. Thereare some fun moments, but not enough of them. Rated R. *’ McLINTOCK!(Paramount Home Entertainment): John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara are inprime form in director Andrew V. McLaglen’s boisterous 1963 comedyWestern inspired by Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. An energeticsupporting cast includes Yvonne de Carlo, Stefanie Powers, JackKruschen, Chill Wills, Jerry Van Dyke, Edgar Buchanan, Leo Gordon,Michael Pate, Perry Lopez, Bruce Cabot and Strother Martin. Thisrollicking box-office hit was a Wayne family affair all around, withson Michael producing, son Patrick in a major role, and daughter Aissa(in her last screen role to date) on hand, too. This is available on anumber of public-domain labels, but look for the Paramount label – thisis the “authentic widescreen collector’s edition,” replete with a bevyof DVD extras. *** “MIKE BIRBIGLIA – WHAT I SHOULD HAVE SAID WASNOTHING: TALES FROM MY SECRET PUBLIC JOURNAL” (Shout! Factory): Thestand-up comedian is performs live in concert. This DVD, which includesbonus footage, retails for $14.99. “ROME” (HBO Video): All 12episodes from the initial, 2005 season of the award-winning HBO dramaseries tracing life in glorious Rome, circa 52 B.C.-44 B.C. The castincludes Kevin McKidd, Ray Stevenson, Polly Walker, Lindsay Duncan andCiaran Hinds (as Julius Caesar). Nominated for 8 Emmy awards, it wonfour – including art direction for a series (for the episode”Caesarion, Triumph, Kalends of February”), outstanding costumes for aseries (for the episode “Triumph”), outstanding hairstyling for aseries (for the episode “Stealing from Saturn”) and outstanding specialvisual effects for a series (for the episode “The Stolen Eagle”). Thisboxed set, which retails for $99.98, includes audio commentaries,deleted scenes and more. WALK HARD: THE DEWEY COX STORY (SonyPictures Home Entertainment): This silly show-biz parody gives John C.Reilly the chance to occupy center stage, playing a singer whose careeris filled with both triumph and tribulation. Jenna Fischer also shinesas Dewey’s second wife, but the comedic inspiration begins to flagafter awhile. Rated R (also available in an extended, unrated edition).** “WALT DISNEY’S TIMELESS TALES” (Walt Disney Studios HomeEntertainment): A collection of acclaimed animated shorts producedduring the Uncle Walt’s Hollywood heyday. “Volume One” includes “TheThree Little Pigs” (Academy Award winner for best animated short, 1933)and “The Tortoise and the Hare” (Academy Award winner for best animatedshort, 1935); “Volume Two” includes “The Country Cousin” (Academy Awardwinner for best animated short, 1936) and “Ferdinand the Bull” (AcademyAward winner for best animated short, 1938). Each volume retails for$19.99, and each one includes a collectible, full-color, DVD storybook. Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2007, Mark Burger

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