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Mark Burger’s Video Vault

by Mark Burger

PICK OF THE WEEK:

FEED (First Run Features): As the nation gears up for what will likely be another heated election year, the timing is perfect for the DVD debut of this eye-opening, free-form 1992 documentary feature from producer/directors James Ridgeway and Kevin Rafferty.

The film is a collection of footage, some of it taken from intercepted satellite feeds (and not meant for broadcast), during the 1992 Presidential race – and specifically the candidates leading up to the New Hampshire primary. There are a lot of familiar faces: Bill and Hillary Clinton, Pat Buchanan, Ross Perot, Jerry Brown and President Bush (the first one).

The film has no narration, no structure and no agenda – and it’s a bipartisan riot as a result. No one person comes off particularly better or worse than anyone else. The microphones and cameras are always on, even if the candidates aren’t – sometimes during occasions when they should be. This also marked the last collaboration between Rafferty (who is related to the Bush family) and Rafferty, and neither has worked on many features since.

Even after 15 years and three subsequent Presidential elections, Feed still feels current – and is definitely worth a look before the political season starts boiling.

ALSO ON DVD

BRAVEHEART (Paramount Home Entertainment): A “special collector’s edition” of Mel Gibson’s 1995 historical epic, dramatizing the story of William Wallace (played by Gibson), who rallied the Scots to overthrow the ruling British forces in the 13th century. Expansive and entertaining… and just a wee bit overrated. Winner of five Academy Awards: Best picture, best director, best cinematography, best sound effects editing and best makeup, with an additional five nominations for best score, best editing, best costume design, best sound and best original screenplay. This two-disc edition includes retrospective documentaries, archival interviews and Gibson’s audio commentary. Rated R.

BRING IT ON: IN IT TO WIN IT (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): The fourth in the popular cheerleader series (and the third to go straight to DVD) pits a West Coast team (the “Jets”) against the East Coast team (the “Sharks”) at a cheerleaders’ summer camp that looks remarkably like Universal Studios in Orlando … which undoubtedly kept the costs down. Obviously, this is a riff on West Side Story, albeit not a very good one. An attractive young cast and some funky cheerleading moves aren’t enough to sustain a flimsy storyline. Rated PG-13. *½

“THE CECIL B. DeMILLE COLLECTION” (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): A five-film collection highlighting the early sound work of legendary producer/director Cecil B. DeMille, whose grand-scale films are still the standard by which epics are judged. The boxed set, which retails for $59.98, includes The Sign of the Cross (1932), which stars Fredric March, Claudette Colbert and Charles Laughton, and earned an Academy Award nomination for best cinematography; Four Frightened People (1934) with Colbert and Herbert Marshall; the ’34 version of Cleopatra, with Colbert in the title role and winning an Oscar for best cinematography and four additional nominations including best picture; The Crusades (1935), which stars Loretta Young and picked up an Oscar nomination for – what else? – best cinematography; and Union Pacific (1939), which stars Joel McCrea, Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Preston, Anthony Quinn and Akim Tamiroff, won the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival, and earned an Oscar nomination for best special effects.

A CHRISTMAS CAROL (VCI Entertainment): If you’re still shopping for a late Christmas gift, you can’t do much better than this two-disc “ultimate collector’s edition” of the 1951 version of Charles Dickens’ classic, with the immortal Alistair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge. Imaginatively directed by Brian Desmond Hurst, with a splendid cast that includes George Cole as young Scrooge, Patrick Macnee as young Marley, Michael Hordern as old Marley, and Mervyn Johns as Bob Cratchit. This special edition includes both the black and white (newly restored) and colorized versions of the film, as well as the 1935 version of Scrooge, with Seymour Hicks in the title role. *

THE GUYVER (New Line Home Entertainment): Steve Wang and Screaming Mad George’s likably goofy 1991 adaptation of Yoshiki Takawa’s popular Japanese comic involving alien technology, monsters and martial arts, with a cult-friendly cast including Mark Hamill, Jeffrey Combs, Michael Berryman, Linnea Quigley and David Gale. Rated PG-13. **½

HATCHET (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Writer/director Adam Green’s broad, semi-successful throwback to ’80s slasher films sees a group of tourists trapped in a Louisiana swamp by a misshapen, maniacal killer (Kane Hodder, who knows a thing or two about playing maniacal killers). Plenty of gore and plenty of in-jokes, as well as a horror-friendly cast that includes Robert Englund and Tony Todd, but it covers no new ground. Still, it’s better than most current horror films because it’s heart’s in the right place – ripped straight from the victim’s body. Triple-threat Hodder also plays the killer’s father and was the stunt coordinator. A sequel is already on the drawing (or carving?) board. Rated R (also available in an unrated version). **

THE HEARTBREAK KID (DreamWorks Pictues/Paramount Home Entertainment): The Farrelly Brothers’ remake of a 1972 comedy stars Ben Stiller as a confirmed bachelor whose whirlwind marriage to a beautiful blonde (Malin Akerman) goes wrong during the honeymoon, during which he meets the true girl of his dreams (Michelle Monaghan). Like most Farrelly films, this one’s outrageously funny, mean-spirited at times, and overlong. Ben’s real-life dad Jerry plays his randy dad here, and look for Eva Longoria at the end. Rated R. **½

THE HILLS HAVE EYES 2 (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Wes Craven, creator of the original 1977 film, collaborated with son Jonathan to write this sequel to last year’s remake (got that?), in which a group of National Guardsmen are violently picked off by a group of drooling, irradiated freaks in the desert. This blunt metaphor for the war in Iraq has a few jolts but too often strays into (unnecessary) excess. Craven helmed a 1985 sequel to the original film called The Hills Have Eyes – Part II, but this is not a remake of that. Filmed in Morocco although set in New Mexico. Rated R (also available in an unrated edition). *

HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB (BCI): An uncut re-release of director Carlos Aured’s 1973 shocker that’s got a little bit of everything – zombies, vampires, reincarnation, possession, beheadings, and Paul Naschy in multiple roles. It may be silly but it’s never dull. Naschy wrote the screenplay (as Jacinto Molina), and he and Aured contribute a commentary track. Rated R. **

HOT ROD (Paramount Home Entertainment): Andy Samberg makes a “jackass” out of himself as a self-styled (and mostly unsuccessful) daredevil who engages in a series of slapstick stunts on his moped. A few chuckles, but this is yet another one-joke Lorne Michaels production, peppered with such “Saturday Night Live” veterans as Jorma Taccone, Bill Hader and Chris Parnell. Sissy Spacek and Ian McShane add some (misplaced) class as Samberg’s mother and stepfather. Rated PG-13. *½

JACKASS 2.5 (Paramount Home Entertainment): Johnny Knoxville, Bam Margera and the gang return in this extended (and unrated) DVD release of footage from the second feature film, based on the popular MTV series. This DVD retails for $29.99.

THE LAND BEFORE TIME: THE WISDOM OF FRIENDS (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): The latest feature-length installment of the animated franchise (more than a dozen films so far!) focuses on a group of friendly dinosaurs features the voices of Cuba Gooding Jr. and Sandra Oh and includes a bonus episode of the new Cartoon Network series. This DVD retails for $19.98.

THE PSYCHIC (Severin Films): In this Italian-made 1977 drive-in throwaway, Jennifer O’Neill (quite good) plays a woman who foresees her own murder. A surprisingly low-key effort from cult director Lucio Fulci, given his later work, is also among his more interesting films. This marks the first time that the full, uncut version has been released in the U.S. Also known as Seven Notes in Black, with a twist ending that smacks of Edgar Allan Poe. **½

“RAWHIDE” – SEASON 2, VOLUME 2 (Paramount Home Entertainment): The remaining 16 episodes from the 1959-’60 season of the long-running CBS Western starring Eric Fleming as trail boss Gil Favor and Clint Eastwood (in his first major role) as Rowdy Yates. Guest stars included Warren Oates, Cloris Leachman, Buddy Ebsen, James Franciscus, John Ireland and Debra Paget. This boxed set retails for $42.99.

SENATOR OBAMA GOES TO AFRICA (First Run Features): U.S. Senator and Presidential candidate Barack Obama travels to Africa, including his father’s birthplace in Kenya, in this lukewarm documentary, which plays too much like a campaign commercial and could use more historical perspective. **

THE SIMPSONS MOVIE (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): After 18 (and counting) seasons on prime-time television, America’s favorite animated family makes the long-awaited leap to the big screen, in appropriately irreverent manner. When Springfield is declared an environmental hazard – thanks to Homer’s misdeeds – the entire family is forced to flee. Sustaining the story for a feature length is not without its bumps, but this retains the series’ long-standing charm. The entire cast of voices regulars (including Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria, et al) is joined by such guest stars as Albert Brooks and Tom Hanks. Rated PG-13.

“THE TUDORS” – THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (Paramount Home Entertainment): Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays the young King Henry VIII in all 10 episodes from the Showtime series’ debut season. The cast also includes Sam Neill as Cardinal Wolsey and Jeremy Northam as the ultimately ill-fated Sir Thomas More (himself immortalized in Robert Bolt’s great play A Man for All Seasons). Four Emmy nominations included wins for Outstanding Costumes for a Series and Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music. This boxed set retails for $42.99.

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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