Mark Burger’s Video Vault

by Mark Burger

Pick of the Week

TALK TO ME (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): Another dazzling turn by Don Cheadle dominates this flip, hip and fact-based comedy/drama depicting the career of Ralph Waldo “Petey” Greene, a fast-talking ex-con who found fame as a radio personality in Washington, DC – perhaps the first of the so-called “shock jocks” that have since become commonplace on the airwaves.

It is the late 1960s, a time of great turbulence and change – and it is Petey Greene’s time, too. His outspoken and plain-speaking persona makes him an immediate hit with the listeners, if not (immediately) with the radio establishment.

Director Kasi Lemmons imbues the film with great energy and great attitude, which is enhanced by the sharp work of the cast. Cheadle’s the champ, but there’s also a career-best performance by Chiwetel Ejiofor as the hard-nosed radio exec who first clashes with, and then champions, Petey’s incendiary attitude.

There’s also fine supporting work from Martin Sheen (as the station owner), Taraji P. Henson, Cedric the Entertainer and Vondie Curtis Hall (director Lemmons’ husband) – and the song selections are funk supreme to the Nth degree.

The film celebrates Petey’s legacy but doesn’t shy away from his self-destructive tendencies. It also encompasses a study of black culture, of the counter-culture, of radio culture.

And Petey’s message is one to take to heart: “Wake up, goddammit!”

Rated R. ***1/2

Also on DVD

“AMAZING JOURNEY: THE STORY OF THE WHO/AMAZING JOURNEY: SIX QUICK ONES” (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): A pair of feature-length documentaries tracing the history of the Who, being released in time to commemorate the band’s 40th anniversary and done with the full cooperation of surviving band members Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend. The two-disk set retails for $29.98.

ANIMAL 2 (Genius Products): Ving Rhames (also an executive producer) returns as prison lifer James “Animal” Allen in this follow-up to the 2005 action drama. Well-acted but nothing special… and didn’t Animal die in the first film? **

THE BEST OF “THE COLBERT REPORT” (Paramount Home Entertainment): Selected highlights from the Emmy-nominated Comedy Central series with comedian/political commentator (and onetime presidential candidate?) Stephen Colbert discussing and debating the issues of the day in satirical fashion – and he’s never wrong. This volume retails for $19.99.

THE BEST OF EVERYTHING (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): The lives and loves of three secretaries (Hope Lange, Diane Baker and Suzy Parker) at a high-powered Manhattan publishing house are depicted in this super-glossy 1959 soap opera based on Rona Jaffe’s best-seller and produced by Jerry Wald. The supporting cast includes Stephen Boyd, Louis Jourdan, Brian Aherne (as the office lecher), future producer and studio head Robert Evans, and Joan Crawford, cast to type as an embittered senior editor. A little campy and a lot dated, but an enjoyable bauble of a long-gone era. Oscar nominations for Best Costume Design (color) and the title tune (performed by Johnny Mathis) as Best Song. **1/2

BORN INNOCENT (VCI Entertainment): Linda Blair falls victim to the system as a teenaged runaway in this depressing but well-acted 1974 TV movie. Hugely controversial in its day due to a rape sequence that was subsequently edited from later airings (but has been restored in this version). Adapted from Creighton Brown Burnham’s book by Gerald DiPego. ***

BREACH (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): Chris Cooper is first rate as FBI agent Robert Hanssen, who was convicted of selling secrets to the Soviets, in director Billy Ray’s coolly methodical, fact-based drama. Rated PG-13. ***

CANNIBAL MAN (Blue Underground): Eloy de la Iglesia’s extremely bizarre 1972 shocker stars Vicente Parra (also the associate producer) as a slaughterhouse worker who goes on a murderous rampage… and guess what he does with the body parts? This marks the DVD debut of the film in its complete and uncensored form. At its best, it recalls Polasnski’s Repulsion. **

“CAPTAIN & TENNILLE – THE SPECIALS” (Retroactive Entertainment): If the double-feature celebrating the history of the Who (above) isn’t your style, how about this series of network television specials from the 1970s featuring the Captain (Daryl Dragon) and Toni Tennille? “Captain & Tennille in New Orleans” features Hal Linden (!) and Fats Domino, “Captain & Tennille in Hawaii” features Kenny Rogers and Don Knotts, and “Captain & Tennille Songbook” features Ella Fitzgerald, BB King and Glen Campbell. Each special retails for $19.99 and a boxed set of all three retails for $49.99. What’s more, the “Captain & Tennille Christmas Show” (featuring Knotts again, the Pointer Sisters and Tom Bosley) is also out now and retails for $14.98, and the duo have released their first-ever Christmas album, “The Secret of Christmas,” which retails for $13.49. That ought to fulfill anyone’s quota of Captain & Tennille this holiday season.

“FULL HOUSE” – THE COMPLETE EIGHTH SEASON (Warner Home Video): All 24 episodes from the final season (1994-’95) of the prime-time ABC-TV sitcom, whose appeal was always a mystery to me. Thanks to this, the Olsen twins became stars. This boxed set retails for $29.98, and a full collection of all eight seasons retails for $169.72.

HANGMAN’S CURSE (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): An engrossing adaptation of Frank Peretti’s best-selling horror novel for teens in which a family that investigates psychic phenomena looks into a series of strange occurrences in a high school reputed to be haunted. By keeping the preachiness to a minimum, this gets its message across better. Those with an aversion to spiders are forewarned regarding the film’s finale. Rated PG-13. **1/2

HOW TO KILL A JUDGE (Blue Underground): Damiano Damiani’s smart 1974 thriller stars Franco Nero as a filmmaker whose latest film depicts a the life and death of a corrupt Sicilian judge – who is then murdered in a similar fashion. The first half of the film is a sharp observation of political skullduggery and artistic responsibility, and although the second half is too talky, there’s a neat twist to the ending. Nero is excellent as the dogged director, as is Renzo Palmer as one of his friendlier Mafia sources. Look for director Damiani in a small role, too. ***

IN THE SPIDER’S WEB (Genius Products): Dumb backpackers stumble across a mysterious tribe in the jungles of India, lorded over by a mad scientist (a grizzled Lance Henriksen) who’s got a thing for spiders. The actors try to give it a lift, but this low-budget thriller is ridiculous even by cheeseball standards, and the CGI spiders don’t help any. Originally broadcast on the Sci-Fi Channel. *1/2

JONATHAN LIVINGSTON SEAGULL (Paramount Home Entertainment): Richard Bach’s novel about a rebellious seagull – replete with dollops of early New Age philosophy – was a massive best seller, but Hall Bartlett’s 1973 screen version did a box-office nosedive. Some things just don’t translate. The voice talent includes James Franciscus (as Jonathan), Juliet Mills, Hal Holbrook, Richard Crenna and Dorothy McGuire. What linger in the memory are the film’s amazing visuals and Neil Diamond’s original score, which won both the Grammy and the Golden Globe award, but sometimes seems a little out of place here. Oscar nominations for Best Editing and (most deservedly) Best Cinematography. Rated G. **1/2

LADY IN THE WATER (Warner Home Video): Another disappointment from writer/producer/director/co-star M. Night Shyamalan, in which the residents of a Philadelphia apartment building encounter supernatural phenomena. This story sprang from a bedtime fable Shyamalan told his daughters. Maybe they can figure it out. Rated PG-13. *1/2

MIDNIGHT MOVIES: FROM THE MARGIN TO THE MAINSTREAM (Starz Home Entertainment): Stuart Samuels’ irresistible documentary feature focuses on the midnight-movie craze of the 1970s and six seminal films: Alejandro Jodorowsky’s El Topo, John Waters’ Pink Flamingos, George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, Perry Henzell’s The Harder They Come, David Lynch’s Eraserhead and the biggest one of them all: Jim Sharman’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Great fun for film buffs. ***

NIGHT OF THE SORCERERS (BCI Eclipse): Amando de Ossorio’s 1973 shocker has it all: Voodoo, vampires, zombies, gratuitous nudity, gratuitous whippings, gratuitous beheadings and slow-motion shots of vampire girls running around in fur bikinis. When they say “they don’t make ’em like that anymore,” this may be what they’re talking about – because they sure don’t. *1/2

“SQUIDBILLIES” – VOLUME ONE (Warner Home Video): 20 episodes from the popular, irreverent Adult Swim animated series about a nutty family of inbred squid who reside in the mountains of Georgia. This boxed set retails for $29.98.

THE TRIALS OF DARRYL HUNT (THINKFilm): Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg’s powerful, award-winning documentary examines the circumstances that sent an innocent teenager to prison – for two decades – for a murder he did not commit… and it all happened in Winston-Salem. Yours truly covered this film’s premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in 2006, and it was quite an experience. Break out the No-Doz, however, for the interview segments with certain Winston-Salem Journal editors. Rated PG-13. ***1/2

VOODOO MOON (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Eric Mabius and Charisma Carpenter topline Kevin VanHook’s low-budget chiller as psychic siblings battling the forces of evil. Often disjointed and confusing, but helped by a solid cast that also includes John Amos, Dee Wallace and Jeffrey Combs. **

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