Mark Burger’s Video Vault

by Mark Burger


RED DAWN (MGM Home Entertainment/Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Although (rightly) criticized for its blunt, blatant, right-wing jingoism, John Milius’ 1984 war drama still packs a punch – and was a box-office hit despite its critical drubbing… although former Secretary of State Alexander Haig loved it. (Then it must be good!)

Soviet forces catch the United States off guard and launch a massive invasion. One of the towns overtaken is Calumet, Colo. – but a group of high-school kids manage to escape into the surrounding wilderness. Rather than wait for reinforcements, they train themselv

es, arm themselves and do their part to avenge the hostile takeover of our great nation. Nothing surpasses the film’s truly chilling opening, in which Soviet forces parachute into the town, but there’s plenty of rousing action throughout. The courageous kids, led by Patrick Swayze, include his future Dirty Dancing mate Jennifer Grey, C. Thomas Howell, Lea Thompson and Charlie Sheen (in his film debut).

Representing the adult contingent are such reliable veterans as Harry Dean Stanton, Ben Johnson, Lane Smith, Frank McRae and Powers Boothe, with requisite antagonism supplied by Ron O’Neal and William Smith. Basil Poledouris’ score goes a long, long way toward making this work. This was the very first film to receive a PG-13 rating. ***


“8 SIMPLE RULES FOR DATING MY DAUGHTER” – THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (Buena Vista Home Entertainment): All 28 episodes from the 2002-03 season of the ABC sitcom starring John Ritter and Katey Sagal. The series hit a major snag in Season Two when Ritter suffered a fatal heart attack on the set. This boxed set retails for $23.99.

18 FINGERS OF DEATH! (Screen Media Films): Writer/director/star James Lew’s martial-arts “mockumentary” gets some mileage out of goodwill in this silly, occasionally on-target spoof of chop-socky moviemaking. Enthusiastic supporting cast includes a mixture of familiar faces and popular martial-arts stars: Don “the Dragon” Wilson (as himself), Lorenzo Lamas, Robin Shou, Bokeem Woodbine, George Kee Cheung (as “Dr. Fock Yu”) and the late Pat Morita. Rated PG-13. **

AMONGST FRIENDS (New Line Home Entertainment): Writer/director Rob Weiss’ 1993 feature debut focuses on three affluent, bored Long Island teenagers who drift into crime. Despite plenty of hype at the time, this remains Weiss’ only feature outing – and it works better when it’s making fun of genre conventions and not embracing them. Rated R. **

DEADTIME STORIES (Cinevision International/Image Entertainment): Jeffrey Delman’s loopy horror anthology was begun in 1982, finished in 1985 and then released in 1987 to capitalize on the popularity of Scott Valentine, who had just joined “Family Ties.” Rated R. **

DROP DEAD SEXY (LionsGate Home Entertainment): A bungled black comedy pairing Jason Lee and Crispin Glover as a pair of cretins whose blackmail scheme goes awry. There are many good actors on hand (Xander Berkeley, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Brad Dourif), but the laughs are few. Rated R. *1/2

ESPN – ULTIMATE NASCAR (ESPN Home Entertainment/Genius Products LLC): A four-volume set chronicling the history of NASCAR racing. The volumes include “The Explosion – NASCAR’s Rise”; “The Dirt, the Cars, Speed and Danger”; “Greatest Drivers, Biggest Races, Hottest Rivalries” and “100 Defining Moments.” Each volume retails for $16.95.

“THE HILLS” – THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON (Paramount Home Entertainment): All 12 episodes from this year’s season of the hit MTV series about being young and glamorous in Los Angeles (something all of us can relate to), retailing for $39.99.

“HOME IMPROVEMENT” – THE COMPLETE SEVENTH SEASON (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): All 25 episodes from the 1997-98 season of the top-rated, Emmy-winning ABC sitcom starring Tim Allen and Patricia Richardson (who picked up an Emmy nomination that year as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series). This boxed set retails for $23.99.

LOVE KILLS (Allumination FilmWorks): Mario Van Peebles wrote, directed and stars in this all-star comedy/thriller about an escaped con-turned-masseur who gets mixed up with a wealthy, back-stabbing Beverly Hills clan. Plenty of twists, and not a little twisted – with a cast that includes Lesley Ann Warren, Louise Fletcher, Lucy Liu, Donovan Leitch, Daniel Baldwin, Susan Ruttan, the late Vincent Schiavelli and Mario’s dad Melvin. Duran Duran’s Simon Le Bon did some of the music. Rated R. **1/2

OH, GOD! YOU DEVIL (Warner Home Video): George Burns’ third (and final) appearance as the Almighty has him also playing the Devil (“Harry O. Tophet”) in this weirdly engaging 1984 comedy, with a bit of It’s a Wonderful Life and Faust thrown in for good measure. Rated PG. **1/2

ORANGES: REVENGE OF THE EGGPLANT (Fat Cat DVD/Tempe Video): Mike Stoklasa’s irreverent, off-the-wall, cartoonish (mis)adventure pitting oranges and other fruits and vegetables against Middle Eastern terrorists who invade the United States. Eventually, zombies show up. We are not talking high art here, but stick with it; the laughs eventually come – and some of the special effects and puppet work are amusingly impressive. **1/2

OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY (Warner Home Video): Norman Jewison’s 1991 adaptation of Jerry Sterner’s off-Broadway hit becomes a vehicle for Danny DeVito, well-cast as a Wall Street shark with his eye on a New England wire and cable company. This combination of social commentary and business satire worked well on the stage, but has trouble finding its footing on the big screen, despite a polished cast including Gregory Peck, Piper Laurie, Dean Jones and a miscast but luscious Penelope Ann Miller. Rated R. **

PRISONER OF PARADISE (Paramount Home Entertainment): Ian Holm narrates Malcolm Clarke and Stuart Sender’s depressing but compelling 2002 documentary about Kurt Gerron, a German star during the 1920s and ’30s who was forced to entertain and to make propaganda films for the Third Reich during World War II – a bitter irony given that Gerron was Jewish. An Academy Award nominee for Best Documentary Feature. ***

SEARCH AND DESTROY/THE GLOVE (Dark Sky Films): A “drive-in” double feature that includes William Fruet’s 1979 melodrama starring Perry King and Don Stroud as Vietnam veterans stalked by a former comrade (Park Jong Soo) around Niagara Falls. The first half of the film is nothing special, but the second half is a marked improvement. Not released until 1981, this also features Tisa Farrow and the ever-reliable George Kennedy. In The Glove, John Saxon (first-rate) plays a hard-luck bounty hunter tracking an ex-con (Rosey Grier) who uses the title implement to mete out revenge. The script isn’t great, but there’s a good supporting cast: Joanna Cassidy, Keenan Wynn, Jack Carter, Michael Pataki, Aldo Ray and Joan Blondell. Both films are rated PG.

“SOUL FOOD” – THE SECOND SEASON (Paramount Home Entertainment): All 20 episodes from the 2001-02 season of the award-winning Showtime series based on the 1997 film. This boxed set retails for $49.99.

YELLOW (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Roselyn Sanchez has plenty of sexy movies, but this soap opera about a Puerto Rican dancer who becomes a New York stripper is maudlin melodrama in the extreme. Sanchez also produced and co-wrote the story. Rated R. *

Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2007, Mark Burger.