Mark Burger’s Video Vault

by Mark Burger

SHOTGUN STORIES (LiberationEntertainment/ Genius Products): NCSA School of Filmmaking alumnus JeffNichols makes an auspicious feature debut as writer and director ofthis haunting and intense drama. Set in a small Arkansas town, the film depicts a latter-day blood feud between the sons of a patriarch who had two families. Asan abusive and raging alcoholic, he fathered three sons that he neverbothered to properly name: Son (Michael Shannon), Kid (Barlow Jacobs)and Boy (Douglas Ligon). After kicking the bottle and finding religion,he started over and remarried, fathering four more boys: Cleaman (Michael Abbott Jr.), Mark (Travis Smith), Stephen (Lynsee Provence) and John (David Rhodes). Itis Son who speaks for his brothers at the old man’s funeral, in bluntterminology that serves only to reopen old wounds between the halfsiblings. This time, however, nothing is going to staunch theflow of blood, as each act of retribution escalates in intensity andconsequence. One by one, the Hayes boys are killing each other off, andno one is able to do anything about it. Depressing yet devastating, thefilm features uncommonly good acting (particularly by Shannon), writingand directing. This is a story about violence that focuses not on theact itself, but on the emotional and physical devastation it wreaks.Strong stuff, powerfully executed. Rated PG-13. ***’½ (For an exclusiveinterview with Shotgun Stories producer David Gordon Green, see page 43)


“ARMY WIVES” — THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (WaltDisney Studios Home Entertainment): All 13 episodes from the 2007season of the popular, award-winning Lifetime drama, based on thenon-fiction best-seller Under the Sabers: The Unwritten Code of Army Wives, depictinglife on a US Army base in the South as seen through the eyes of thesoldiers’ wives. Catherine Bell and Kim Delaney head the ensemble cast,and Greensboro’s own R. Keith Harris played the base chaplain in thepilot episode. This boxed set, which includes such special features asdeleted scenes and audio commentaries, retails for $39.99.

DON’T CALL ME BUGSY (MPIHome Video): This 1992 documentary examines the violent rise andequally violent fall of gangster Ben “Bugsy” Siegel (1906-1941), the New York-bornmobster whose dream it was to create the greatest gambling palace theworld had ever seen: the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas. As it turned out,he gambled with his life… and lost. Among those who weigh in areauthors Andy Edmonds and Max Allan Collins, screenwriter CharlesBennett, entertainer Rose Marie and others. **’½

HEATHERS (Anchor Bay Entertainment): A “20 th High School ReunionEdition” of director Michael Lehmann’s award-winning 1989 debut featurestarring Winona Ryder as a high-school student who plots to murder themost popular girls in her class (all of whom seem to be named Heather)with the help of a reckless new student (Christian Slater) whom shefalls for. A smart and hip black comedy… but a tad overrated. Just trytelling that to its legion of fans, however. Rated R. ***

HE WAS A QUIET MAN (Anchor Bay Entertainment): In a real change of pace, Christian Slater (looking very different than he did in Heathers!) givesa terrific performance as a nerdy, sociopathic corporate shill whounexpectedly becomes a hero when a fellow employee goes on a shootingspree, and is later drawn into a relationship with one of the survivors(Elisha Cuthbert) of the incident. Writer/director Frank Cappello’ssurreal black comedy packs a real wallop, but the twist ending missesthe mark. Still, this is well worth catching. Cuthbert and William H. Macy (as Slater’s boss) are also excellent. Rated R. ***

HIS DOUBLE LIFE (AlphaHome Video): This 1933 comedy of mistaken identity, based on ArnoldBennett’s play, stars Roland Young as a renowned painter so reclusivethat, when his manservant dies, he assumes his identity and starts hislife over. This is the only sound film directed by Arthur Hopkins and,despite nice work by Young and leading lady Lillian Gish, it’s slowgoing — especially for a screwball comedy — until the courtroom climax.**

HOW SHE MOVE (ParamountHome Entertainment): Newcomer Rutina Wesley plays a teenager who triesto escape her urban neighborhood and earn money for college byparticipating in step-dance competitions. Nice performances (includingthose of Dwain Murphy, Brennan Gademans and Cle Bennett) and energeticstep sequences, but too often this veers into “Afterschool Special”soap-opera territory. Rated PG-13. **

“I BET YOU” — SEASON 1 (MOJOHD/Infinity Entertainment Group): All 8 episodes (plus two bonusepisodes) from the first season of the MOJO HD reality-TV seriesfocusing on the antics of poker champions and best friends Phil “TheUnabomber” Laak and Antonio “The Magician” Esfandiari, as they wagertheir way through life. This two-disc set retails for $24.98.

MAMA’S BOY (WarnerHome Video): Jon Heder plays a 29-year-old guy who still lives at homewith his widowed mother (Diane Keaton), and bristles when a new man(Jeff Daniels) enters her — and thereby, his — life. This predictablecomedy, which the studio gave a half-hearted theatrical release, getssome mileage out of its talented cast, which includes Anna Faris, MaryKay Place (who has nothing to do), Sarah Chalke and the always welcomeEli Wallach, but there’s only so much they can do. Rated PG-13. **

NFL: MANNING, BRADY AND FAVRE — THE QUARTERBACKS (WarnerHome Video): The title says it all, as this official NFL Films releasespotlights the careers of three superstar quarterbacks who have ledtheir respective teams to Super Bowl glory: Peyton Manning(Indianapolis Colts), Brett Favre (Green Bay Packers) and Tom Brady(New England Patriots). Of course, we now know that one or more of NewEngland’s three championships may have been tainted the old-fashionedway — by cheating. Tsk, tsk…. This DVD retails for $19.98.

OTIS (WarnerHome Video): A broad black comedy with Bostin Christopher as an obesesuburban serial killer who kidnaps a teenaged neighbor (AshleyJohnson), much to the mounting concern of her parents (Illeana Douglasand Daniel Stern), brother (Jared Kusnitz), and a smug, ineffectual FBIagent (Jere Burns, cast to type). Alternately creepy, funny,grisly and edgy, with an excellent score by James S. Levine (and somekiller ’80s tunes thrown in for good measure). Although theenergy flags, the collective zeal of the performers takes it over thetop — and keeps it there. Check out the (wisely) deleted ending in thespecial features. ***

“POPEYE THE SAILOR 1938-1940, VOLUME 2” (WarnerHome Video): A collection of 31 fully restored and unedited animatedtheatrical shorts created by Max Fleischer and based on the classiccomics character created by Elzie Segar. This DVD, whichretails for $34.98, also includes commentaries, documentaries and rarearchival. Warner Home Video is also releasing “Popeye and Friends,Volume 1,” a collection of eight color cartoon shorts from theSaturday-morning Hanna-Barbera series. This DVD retails for $14.97. Thecharacter of Popeye was so popular that spinach sales skyrocketed, andit’s hard to argue his credo: “I Yam What I Yam!”

“PRESSURE COOK” — SEASON 1 (MOJOHD/ Infinity Entertainment Group): All 10 episodes from the debutseason of the Mojo HD reality- TV series in which renowned chef RalphPagano goes to a random country with 72 hours in which to earn enoughmoney (via his culinary expertise) for plane fare back to the US. Thisboxed set retails for $24.98.

“THE REAL McCOYS” — COMPLETE SEASON 3 (InfinityEntertainment Group): All 39 episodes from the 1959-’61 season(s) ofthe popular half hour TV sitcom about a wacky rural family from West Virginia that settles in southern Californiato become dirt farmers. This was the only season the series receivedany Emmy consideration, garnering five nominations (but no wins)including those for series stars Walter Brennan (best actor in aleading role in a comedy series), Richard Crenna (best actor in asupporting role in a comedy series) and Kathleen Freeman (best actressin a supporting role in a comedy series). I don’t know about you, but Imiss Richard Crenna. He was cool. This boxed set retails for $39.98.

“THE SUITE LIFE OF ZACK AND CODY: LIP SYNCHIN’ IN THE RAIN” (WaltDisney Studios Home Entertainment): Four episodes from the popularDisney Channel series starring teen twins Dylan and Cole Sprouse. ThisDVD, which includes such special features as outtakes, bloopers andmore, retails for $19.99.

THE TATTOOIST (SonyPictures Home Entertainment): A brooding horror film with Jason Behr asa tattoo artist cursed after he stealing a sacred Samoan tool. Thereare some queasy moments (for those who care), but this takes forever toget going… and then it doesn’t really go anywhere. This marks the debutfeature of director Peter Burger (no relation). Rated R. *’½

TYPHOON (GeniusProducts): Writer/director Kwak Kyung-Taek’s sleek, slam-bang actionyarn pits a young Naval Intelligence officer (Lee Jung- Jae) against acunning terrorist (Jang Dong-Gun) who is planning to launch toxic waste(taken from Chernobyl, no less!) in the middle of a typhoon as it hitsSouth Korea, thereby contaminating the populace. Had this been anAmerican film, you would have expected it to star the likes of a StevenSeagal or a Jean-Claude Van Damme. Thankfully, it’s not so it doesn’t.(In Korean with English subtitles) Rated R. ***

WHERE IS JIMMY HOFFA? (MPIHome Video): Subtitled “The Life and Disappearance of Labor Legend,”this fascinating 1992 documentary examines the tumultuous career ofTeamster leader James Riddle Hoffa, whose disappearance on July 30,1975 remains one of the 20 th century’s great unsolved mysteries.Archival footage and rare interviews are augmented by interviews withjournalists, biographers and former labor officials. According to thespeculation here, Jimmy’s remains did not end up in the foundation ofGiants Stadium… but maybe not too far away! ***

YANKEE STADIUM — BASEBALL’S CATHEDRAL (MLB Productions/Shout! Factory): Chazz Palminteri, who wrote and starred in A Bronx Tale, narratesthis feature length documentary detailing the illustrious 85 yearhistory of what may well be the most famous landmark of the Bronx — the“House That Ruth Built.” This two-DVD collector’s edition, whichincludes a commemorative ticket and coin, retails for $26.99.

MarkBurger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2008, MarkBurger