Mark Burger’s Video Vault



YOU KILL ME (Genius Products): Yet another grand performance by Sir Ben Kingsley dominates this engaging black comedy directed by John Dahl, which deftly combines elements of the droll and the outrageous, sometimes with a screwball twist.

An alcoholic hit man for the Polish Mafia in Buffalo, Frank Falenczyk (Kingsley) is sent to San Francisco to dry out and clean up his act – while also cleaning up corpses at a day job as a mortician’s assistant.

Frank dutifully attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and finds a sympathetic sponsor in toll-taker Tom (Luke Wilson), and he also finds love in the form of Laurel (a never-better Tea Leoni), whose late stepfather Frank recently worked on.

Frank’s constant battle with the bottle, played (successfully) for both laughs and pathos, becomes a secondary consideration when circumstances compel him to return to Buffalo in order to settle a score. This time, however, he’s a stronger and much more self-secure man – an upbeat message that totally fits within the film’s offbeat context.

All told, this is a quirky concoction made all the tastier by its top cast, which also includes Bill Pullman (who’s hilarious), Marcus Thomas, Dennis Farina and Philip Baker Hall. Rated R. ***


“7TH HEAVEN” – THE FIFTH SEASON (Paramount Home Entertainment): All 22 episodes from the 2000-’01 season of the long-running prime-time drama that was one of the WB’s most popular shows ever. Stephen Collins and Catherine Hicks play the parents of seven children, all of whom deal with the trials and tribulations of daily life. This boxed set retails for $54.99.

“THE ADVENTURES OF MIMI” (Live Nation): This DVD boxed set, which chronicles Mariah Carey’s tour in conjunction with the release of her 2005 album The Emancipation of Mimi, retails for $19.99 and is available exclusively at Best Buy. I’ll bet you’re headed there right now.

“THE BEST OF CRANK YANKERS: UNCENSORED” (Paramount Home Entertainment): A collection of 50 crank calls culled from the popular Comedy Central series, in which actual comedians make phony phone calls, although depicted onscreen as wacky puppets. Among the funny folk on the line are Jack Black, Sarah Silverman, Dave Chappelle and others. This DVD retails for $19.99.

“BEVERLY HILLS 90210” – THE THIRD SEASON (Paramount Home Entertainment): All 30 episodes from the 1992-’93 season of the long-running prime-time teen soap opera that became one of the Fox Network’s first breakout hits. This boxed set retails for $61.99.

BEYOND RE-ANIMATOR (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Jeffrey Combs reprises his signature role as mad scientist Herbert West, continuing his diabolical experiments behind the walls of a maximum-security penitentiary, in the third installment of the cult horror series. Appropriately grisly and nutty; there’s still life in the undead! Rated R. ***

THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): Matt Damon returns as Jason Bourne in the latest installment of the popular action franchise based on the series of novels by Robert Ludlum. This time, Bourne returns to exact retribution against his former CIA keepers. Directed with great flair by Paul Greengrass, with an excellent supporting cast including Joan Allen, Julia Stiles, David Strathairn, Scott Glenn and Albert Finney. Rated PG-13. ***

THE CHRISTMAS CARD (Genius Products): A sweet, sincere romantic comedy about an Iraq War veteran (John Newton) who follows a Christmas card stateside to the girl of his dreams (Alice Evans). Add a little yuletide magic and you’ve got the film that earned the Hallmark Channel’s highest ratings and earned Edward Asner an Emmy nomination as outstanding supporting actor in a mini-series or movie… which was the 17th of his career! **1/2

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): A spectacular, “30th Anniversary Ultimate Edition” of Steven Spielberg’s superb 1977 epic about mysterious visitations from another world. This edition includes the original theatrical version, the 1980 “Special Edition” and Spielberg’s “Director’s Cut.” In any version, this is a great movie. Vilmos Zsigmond’s cinematography won an Academy Award, with additional nominations for Spielberg (as best director), Melinda Dillon (best supporting actress), best visual effects, best editing, best art direction/set decoration, best sound and for John Williams’ great score. (Williams won the Oscar for original score that year, anyway – for Star Wars). Rated PG. ****

“THE CHRONOLOGICAL DONALD” (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): A limited-edition series of DVD boxed sets, released under the “Walt Disney Treasures” banner, showcasing the history of one of the most popular animated characters ever conceived by Disney (or anyone else, for that matter) – the lovably irascible Donald Duck. “Volume 1” includes animated shorts from 1934-’41, “Volume 2” covers animated shorts from 1942-’46, and “Volume 3” features animated shorts from 1947-’50. Each volume retails for $32.99 and includes interviews, interviews and numerous extras for the Donald (and Disney) faithful.

“DAVE ATELL: CAPTAIN MISERABLE” (HBO Video): The stand-up comedian performs at the Lincoln Theatre in Washington, DC. This special includes bonus materials and retails for $19.97.

THE EVIL DEAD (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Anchor Bay Entertainment has made an entire cottage industry out of releasing special editions of Sam Raimi’s 1982 horror classic – and this latest one is billed as “the ultimate edition.” It lives up to that moniker by boasting an amazing selection of extras (including commentaries, retrospective documentaries, deleted scenes, etc.) and it retails for $34.97. It’s about this old house in the woods, where a bunch of dumb college kids led by Bruce Campbell show up one weekend… and you know what happens next! (And it ain’t pretty!) ***

THE FAMILY HOLIDAY (PorchLight Home Entertainment): A fast-talking con man (Dave Coulier) learns the true meaning of Christmas with the help of a couple of orphans, a cute dog, and a little holiday magic. Corny and predictable, but good performances pull it through. **1/2

“FRASIER” – THE TENTH SEASON (Paramount Home Entertainment): All 24 episodes from the 2002-’03 (and second-to-last) season of the popular NBC sitcom, spun off from the equally popular “Cheers,” with Kelsey Grammer as radio psychologist Frasier Crane, now laboring in Seattle. An Emmy Award magnet during most of its run, the show picked up only one that season – for outstanding multi-camera picture editing for a series (for the episode “Rooms With a View”) – but earned four other nominations, including outstanding supporting actor in a comedy series for both John Mahoney and David Hyde Pierce. This boxed set retails for $42.99.

GLASS HOUSE: THE GOOD MOTHER (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): The original 2001 film was no great shakes as a Hitchcock knock-off, and this in-name-only sequel (actually more a remake) is cold-blooded and contrived, but better acted (especially by Angie Harmon and Jordan Hinson) than you’d expect. Rated R. **

“GOMER PYLE, USMC” – THE THIRD SEASON (Paramount Home Entertainment): All 29 episodes from the 1966-’67 season of the top-rated CBS sitcom, spun off from “The Andy Griffith Show,” with Jim Nabors reprising his role as the bumbling but well-meaning Gomer Pyle. This boxed set retails for $42.99.

“MORK & MINDY” – THE THIRD SEASON (Paramount Home Entertainment): All 23 episodes from the 1980-’81 season of the popular ABC sitcom with Robin Williams as a wacky visitor from the planet Ork and Pam Dawber as the Earthling he lives with. This boxed set retails for $42.99.

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD’S END (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): The gang’s all here – Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Keira Knightley, Orlando Bloom, et al – in this overproduced, overblown third installment of the popular big-screen franchise, which earned plenty of doubloons at the box-office. Plenty of bang for the buck, but barely coherent and frankly exhausting… and not all that much fun. Even a cameo by Keith Richards (as Depp’s pirate dad) barely makes a dent amid the noise and thunder. Rated PG-13. **

SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE (The Criterion Collection): This special edition of writer/director Ingmar Bergman’s intimate 1973 drama – unquestionably one of the most acclaimed films of his storied career – includes both the theatrical version and the six-hour TV mini-series from which it was taken. Because it premiered on television before its theatrical release, this was ineligible for the Academy Awards but earned considerable acclaim anyway, including a Golden Globe award as best foreign film. Liv Ullmann and Erland Josephson star as a “perfect” couple whose marriage comes undone, forcing them to confront their own flaws as husband, wife and parents. This boxed set retails for $49.95.

SICKO (Genius Products): Writer/director/rabble-rouser Michael Moore strikes again with this insightful documentary feature about the healthcare industry in the United States… and it’s not a pretty picture – but it does hit a nerve, whether you’re a Moore maven or not. Rated PG-13. ***

“THE SONNY CHIBA COLLECTION” (BCI Eclipse): This six-film DVD boxed set, which retails for $24.98, includes six action favorites starring international martial-arts sensation Shinichi “Sonny” Chiba: Sister Street Fighter (1974), Bullet Train (1975), Karate Warriors (1976), The Bodyguard (1976), Golgo 13 (1977) and Dragon Princess (1981). “Viva Chiba!”

STARDUST (Paramount Home Entertainment): Director Matthew Vaughn’s fun-filled, whimsical adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s fantasy novel, involving heroism and romance – and a lot of CGI visual effects – in a fantastical netherworld. A shrewd balance of humor and scale goes a long way, but wasn’t enough to make this the box-office hit it deserved to be. Charlie Cox and Claire Danes are the leads, but the real fireworks come from a ravishing Michelle Pfeiffer and a surprisingly effervescent Robert De Niro (!). Rated PG-13. ***

“WELCOME TO THE GRINDHOUSE” (BCI) Another pair of drive-in double-features released theatrically by Crown International Pictures. Cathy Lee Crosby plays the title role in the sexy 1978 high-school comedy Coach, which co-stars Keenan Wynn and Michael Biehn (in his big-screen debut), while busty Debra Blee toplines the 1982 comedy The Beach Girls. Incredibly, Coach earned a PG rating! The second double-feature consists of 1967’s The Hellcats and the marvelously titled Chain Gang Women, which is rated R. Each double feature retails for $12.98.

“THE WIRE” – THE COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON (HBO Video): All 13 episodes from the 2006 season of the award-winning HBO series, created by David Simon, depicting life and death, law and order, on the mean streets of Baltimore, MD. This boxed set retails for $59.99.

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