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Mark Burger’s Video Vault

by Mark Burger

PICK OF THE WEEK:

THE FOUNTAIN (Warner Home Video): Darren Aronofsky’s ethereal, existential romantic fantasy polarized critics and was a major box-office disappointment, but is clearly destined for cult status.

Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz portray the protagonists in three parallel stories, each set in a different era (past, present and future), and each one focusing on love, death, spiritualism and science – with some science fiction thrown in for good measure. It’s almost impossible to accurately describe this film, and it’s not entirely surprising that many audiences rejected it. Nor is it surprising that it inspired an immediate following.

At times boldly imaginative and at others maddeningly maudlin, Aronofsky’s ambitions are unquestionable and frequently laudable – even if the end result falls somewhat (and somewhere) short.

Weisz suffers nobly and beauteously as Jackman’s eternal love, and the great Ellen Burstyn lends some heft as his compassionate mentor, but it’s Jackman who holds the film together with a deeply felt, go-for-broke performance that ranks as one of his best to date. Rated PG-13. **1/2

ALSO ON DVD

BLOOD IN THE FACE (First Run Features): An unsettling, absorbing 1991 documentary feature about the inner workings of various white supremacist groups in the United States. Directed by Anne Bohlen, Kevin Rafferty and James Ridgeway, upon whose book the film is based. Michael Moore is one of the interviewers. ***

“DARKWING DUCK”: VOLUME 2 (Walt Disney Home Entertainment): A boxed set containing 27 episodes of the early-’90s animated series about a bumbling crime fighter who fancies himself a superhero. The show first ran on “The Disney Afternoon” and then Saturday mornings on ABC. In 1992, the show received an Emmy nomination as Outstanding Animated Program. This boxed set retails for $34.99.

“DYNASTY” – THE SECOND SEASON (Paramount Home Entertainment): Joan Collins and Heather Locklear joined the ABC prime-time soap opera during the 1981-82 season, all 22 episodes of which are included in this boxed set, which retails for $42.99. That season, the show even picked up Emmy nominations for Outstanding Drama Series (!) and for John Forsythe as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. Trivia note: The role of Alexis was originally offered to Sophia Loren. Instead, it catapulted Collins back into the limelight.

FANDANGO (Warner Home Video): Writer/director Kevin Reynolds’ 1984 feature debut is a coming-of-age comedy/drama about five college graduates who embark on a wacky road trip in 1971. The talented young cast includes early star turns by Kevin Costner, Judd Nelson and Sam Robards (the son of Jason Robards and Lauren Bacall). Chuck Bush and Brian Cesak play the other two. Robards also married female lead Suzy Amis (who later married James Cameron). Alternately inspired and hokey, the film nevertheless has a fervent cult following and was the inspiration for the name of the movie-ticket service… so this film is partially to blame for those annoying ads you see before movies. Rated PG. **1/2

HALLOWEEN (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Anchor Bay’s umpteenth reissue of John Carpenter’s 1978 horror classic, in an all-new “collectible” package. Whatever version(s) you watch, this is a great movie. It is 90 minutes of perfection. “Was it the boogeyman?” “As a matter of fact, it was.” Rated R. ****

THE LOOKOUT (Miramax Home Entertainment): Screenwriter Scott Frank’s directorial debut is a taut, noir-ish thriller about a brain-damaged former high-school athlete (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) drawn into a plot to rob the bank where he works as a janitor. Nice supporting work from Jeff Daniels, Isla Fisher and especially Matthew Goode (as the gang’s leader). A box-office flop that richly deserves a second chance on DVD. Rated R. ***

THE MANY ADVENTURES OF WINNIE THE POOH: THE FRIENDSHIP EDITION (Walt Disney Home Entertainment): No matter how old you get, the animated Disney films based on AA Milne’s stories never lose their quaint charm. This collection, which retails for $29.99, includes the 1977 feature film as well as such shorts as “Honey Tree,” “Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too” and the Oscar-winning “Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day,” plus the pilot episode for the new TV series “My Friends Tigger and Pooh.”

PAYBACK – STRAIGHT UP: THE DIRECTOR’S CUT (Paramount Home Entertainment): Screenwriter/director Brian Helgeland’s original cut of the 1999 crime drama starring Mel Gibson as a gangster who exacts revenge on those who betrayed him. Darker and more surreal than the theatrical version – and therefore superior – but still rather pointless. Rated R. **1/2

STRIKING RANGE (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Yet another Die Hard knock-off (see also The Vault, below), pitting Lou Diamond Phillips and Yancy Butler against high-tech assassins. This has a lot of gunplay, a lot of prowling around dark corners, some awful rock ‘n’ roll songs and a lot of twists – most of them bad. “Striking Out” is more like it. Rated R. *

THE SUCKLING (Elite Entertainment): An aborted, mutated fetus goes on a murderous rampage in this tacky, low-budget 1990 shocker that’s very much in the Troma spirit. *

TCM SPOTLIGHT: THE MYRNA LOY/WILLIAM POWELL COLLECTION (Warner Home Video): In addition to the wildly successful Thin Man series, Myrna Loy and William Powell starred in a number of other films together, included in this boxed set: WS Van Dyke’s Manhattan Melodrama (1934), which won the Academy Award for Best Original Story; Evelyn Prentice (also ’34), co-starring Rosalind Russell; Double Wedding (1937); Van Dyke’s 1940 adaptation of the comedy I Love You Again; and the 1941 comedy Love Crazy. This boxed set retails for $49.92.

THREE FILMS BY LOUIS MALLE (The Criterion Collection): A trio of critically acclaimed films by the renowned French director (1932-1995): Murmur of the Heart (1971), for which Malle’s original screenplay received an Academy Award nomination; Lacombe, Lucien (1974), which received an Oscar nomination as Best Foreign Language Film; and the autobiographical Au Revoir les Enfants (1987), which received Oscar nominations for Best Foreign Language Film and Malle’s original screenplay. Each title retails individually for $29.95 and the boxed set for $79.95.

“THE TICK” VS. SEASON TWO (Buena Vista Home Entertainment): A dozen episodes from the 1995 season of the irreverent animated series, originally broadcast on the Fox Kids Network, about a fearless but slightly dim-witted superhero (voiced by Townsend Coleman) battling evil wherever it should rear its foul head. This boxed set retails for $34.99.

TMNT (Warner Home Video): The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles return in a CGI-animated feature that’s more of a follow-up to the earlier films than a remake. Primarily for fans, but the special effects are impressive. The voice cast includes Laurence Fishburne, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Patrick Stewart and, in his final project, Mako (as the voice of Splinter). Rated PG. **1/2

UNACCOMPANIED MINORS (Warner Home Video): A frenetic, ultimately feeble Home Alone clone in which a group of rowdy kids are stranded in an airport on Christmas Eve. The adult contingent includes Lewis Black (as the kids’ nemesis), Wilmer Valderrama, Jessica Walter and an unbilled Teri Garr (lucky her). Joe Mantegna’s daughter Gina plays one of the kids. Rated PG. *

THE VAULT (MTI Home Video): Still another low-rent Die Hard clone, this one pitting a reformed jewel thief (martial-artist Laci Szabo) against a gang of thieves bent on stealing a priceless gem from a museum. A couple of funny lines and some nifty fight moves, but nothing more. Rated PG-13. *

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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