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by Mark Burger

THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Director Franklin J. Schaffner’s 1978 adaptation of Ira Levin’s best-seller, newly reissued on DVD, is irresistible highconcept filmmaking. Gregory Peck, in a rare villainous turn, plays the notorious Nazi scientist Dr. Josef Mengele, who has succeeded in cloning Adolf Hitler. Scattered throughout the world are 94 13-year-old boys — each one the genetic duplicate of der Fuehrer himself. Surely, so fantastic a scheme couldn’t be possible… or could it? That’s the increasingly urgent quandary that faces Ezra Lieberman (Laurence Olivier, who earned an Oscar nomination as best actor), an aging but tenacious Nazi hunter who begins to put the pieces of the puzzle together — much to Mengele’s outrage. Augmented by Jerry Goldsmith’s stellar, Oscar-nominated score, this globe-trotting thriller culminates in the long-awaited confrontation between Mengele and Lieberman — and the two actors playing them. Schaffner also stacks the deck with a starstudded supporting cast including Lilli Palmer, Denholm Elliott, Uta Hagen, Steve Guttenberg, Anne Meara, John Rubinstein, Michael Gough, Winston-Salem resident Rosemary Harris and the always-welcome James Mason. The film’s editing also scored an Oscar nomination. Like Levin’s novel, The Boys from Brazil is a real page-turner in the best pulp tradition. Occasionally overacted and overblown, it’s also entertaining and even enjoyable — which may seem antithetical given the film’s subject matter. In the 30 years since the film was released, cloning has come to pass and become an accepted fact of medical technology… and isn’t that, perhaps, the scariest idea of all? Rated R. ***’½

ALSO ON DVD BUSTIN’ DOWN THE HOUSE (Screen Media Films): Edward Norton narrates this engaging, award-winning documentary feature focusing on a group of young surfers from Australia and South Africa who, during the 1970s, took the sport by storm. Great surfing footage, too. ***

CRAIG FERGUSON: A WEE BIT O’ REVOLUTION (Image Entertainment): The award-winning comedian and TV talk-show (who was recently granted U.S. citizenship) offers his humorous take on politics, rehab, James Bond and a wide assortment of topics in this stand-up comedy special taped in Boston. This special-edition DVD retails for $14.98.

CROWLEY (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Thanks to virtual-reality technology (don’t ask), the spirit of notorious 20 th -century occultist Aleister Crowley is resurrected in the body of a mild-mannered Cambridge professor (Simon Callow) in the year 2000, at which point all hell starts breaking loose. This wildly uneven black comedy, originally titled Chemical Wedding (referring to the Satanic ceremony Crowley means to perform) and co-written by Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson, does have its wacky charms (for those who can stomach them) — particularly an outrageous, no-holds-barred turn by Callow. **

THE HAUNTING OF MOLLY HARTLEY (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Like the title says, Haley Bennett plays a troubled teen whose tragic past comes back to haunt her in this initially intriguing but ultimately disappointing chiller that’s reminiscent of a ’70s madefor-TV horror film… and not in a good way. UNSCA School of Filmmaking alumnus Zene Baker was the editor. Rated PG-13. *’½

“HEAD CASE” — SEASON 1 (Starz Entertainment/Anchor Bay Entertainment): Alexandra Wentworth portrays an outspoken Hollywood therapist whose clientele includes such celebrities as Rosanna Arquette, Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Lloyd, Ione Skye, Lea Thompson, Cindy Margolis and others, in all eight episodes from the 2007 season of the Starz Original sitcom, which was originally presented in 15-minute “sessions” but has since been expanded to a full half-hour. This boxed set retails for $19.97. “HOPE & FAITH” — SEASON ONE (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Faith Ford and Kelly Ripa play sisters — one a married mother of three and the other a TV soap-opera diva — in all 25 episodes from the 2003-’04 season of the prime-time ABC- TV sitcom. This boxed set retails for $39.98. Special features include a “making-of” featurette and bloopers.

LAKE CITY (Screen Media Films): Sissy Spacek (expectedly solid) plays a middleaged woman in a small Southern town whose estranged son (Troy Garrity) returns home unannounced — replete with gangsters on his trail — in this brooding melodrama that gets a boost from its cast, which also includes Dave Matthews, Rebecca Romijn, Barry Corbin, Drea de Matteo and Keith Carradine. Rated R. **’½

THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (MGM Home Entertainment/Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Being released in time to coincide with the theatrical release of the remake, here’s an unrated “collector’s edition” of writer/director Wes Craven’s 1972 debut feature, a relentless shocker about a group of thugs that viciously assault two teenage girls, but are then preyed upon by the parents of one of them. Inspired by Bergman’s The Virgin Spring, this drive-in perennial and cult classic is hugely effective but not for the squeamish. The amateurishness of the low-budget production actually works in the film’s favor, lending it a gritty (and frequently unpleasant) ambience. Even now, over 35 years later, this is rough stuff. ***

LOADED (Allumination FilmWorks): Slick, cautionary tale with Jesse Metcalfe as a rich kid who is sucked in and set up by a charismatic con man (Corey Large, who also produced and wrote the story) with a score to settle. Writer/producer/director Alan Pao’s feature debut is unsurprising but not bad, with fine cinematography by Roger Chingirian and a seasoned supporting cast including Vinnie Jones, Nicole Eggert, Erin Gray, Kurupt, Lochlyn Munro, John Bennett Perry, Parker Stevenson, Taylor Cole and Johnny Messner, the latter in good form as a sloe-eyed thug. Rated R. **

MITCH ALBOM’S FOR ONE MORE DAY (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Oprah Winfrey was the executive producer for this adaptation of Mitch Albom’s best-selling novel, starring Michael Imperioli as a boozesoaked, washed-up baseball player who, miraculously, gets one more day to spend with his late mother (Ellen Burstyn), during which he realizes the mistakes in his life. Sincere performances keep this tearjerker afloat — but just barely. **

THE MOVIE HERO (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Writer/producer/director Brad T. Gottfred’s award-winning debut feature stars Jeremy Sisto as an overly imaginative resident of Hollywood who’s convinced that his life is being filmed as a movie. Quirky and self-conscious (that’s the point, to an extent), but the idea is stretched a little thin. Nice supporting work by Dina Meyer, Brian White and Peter Stormare (also an executive producer). **’½

THE PAUL NEWMAN FILM SERIES (Warner Home Video): A selection of five feature films, each making its DVD debut, showcasing the talents of the legendary Paul Newman (1925-2008): The 1954 Biblical epic The Silver Chalice marked Newman’s screen debut (much to his apparent embarrassment) and earned Academy Award nominations for best cinematography (color) and score; Michael Curtiz’ 1957 show-biz biography The Helen Morgan Story features Ann Blyth in the title role; Newman plays a Mexican bandit (!) in Martin Ritt’s 1964 Western The Outrage, a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon, costarring Edward G. Robinson, Claire Bloom, Laurence Harvey and William Shatner; Newman made his producing and directing debut with the critically acclaimed 1968 adaptation of Rachel, Rachel, which earned Oscar nominations for best picture, actress (Joanne Woodward), supporting actress (Estelle Parsons) and adapted screenplay; and, finally, heading an all-star cast (William Holden, Jacqueline Bisset, Ernest Borgnine, James Franciscus, Red Buttons, Burgess Meredith, et al) in the belated disaster epic When Time Ran Out… (1980), which marked producer Irwin Allen’s final theatrical feature and somehow earned an Oscar nomination for costume design. Shamefully, yours truly paid to see this three times back in ’80 — because I was a huge William Holden fan and I loved disaster movies. In any event, Newman was great and is much missed. Each DVD retails for $19.97.

POISON IVY: THE SECRET SOCIETY (New Line Home Entertainment/Warner Home Video): While the audience encounters boredom, small-town girl Miriam McDonald encounters bitchery and back-stabbing when she is initiated into a secret college clique whose leader (Shawna Waldron) has psychopathic tendencies. Catherine Hicks and Greg Evigan round out the cast of this dull opus, which has no ties whatsoever to the earlier Poison Ivy films. Even the gratuitous nudity is tiresome rather than titillating. Rated R. *

“SOUTH PARK” — THE COMPLETE 12 TH SEASON (Comedy Central Home Entertainment/Paramount Home Entertainment): Matt Stone and Trey Parker are up to their old tricks in all 14 episodes from the 2008 season of the long-running, award-winning, animated Comedy Central series about four prepubescent, foul-minded kids at large in the fictional town of South Park, Colo. And, yes… Kenny keeps getting killed. This boxed set retails for $49.99.

SPACED OUT (Ariztical Entertainment): In this sequel to the 2005 comedy Space Daze, producer James Vallo plays a tabloid TV host who returns to Earth after being abducted — and repeatedly probed — by aliens in this raunchy, low-budget sci-fi spoof that tends to overstay its welcome despite some hearty laughs. Also on hand: Butch Patrick (erstwhile Eddie Munster of yesteryear), Robert Z’dar and Fred Williamson (as himself). This marks the feature debut of writer/director/ co-executive producer/cinematographer/ editor Scott Grenke. **

TO CATCH A THIEF (Paramount Home Entertainment): A “Centennial Edition” of Alfred Hitchock’s 1955 adaptation of David Dodge’s novel, starring Cary Grant as a retired cat burglar who dallies with Grace Kelly, as a gorgeous young heiress, while trying to ferret out a copycat on the French Riviera. One of Hitchcock’s more innocuous outings, which is hardly a criticism given how picturesque and entertaining it is. Robert Burks’ color cinematography won an Academy Award, with additional nominations for art direction/set decoration (color) and Edith Head’s costume design. And, as always, look for the trademark Hitchcock cameo. ***

WALLED IN (Indigomotion/Anchor Bay Entertainment): A good-looking but bland shocker with Mischa Barton — not the most expressive of actresses — as an architect sent to supervise the demolition of a mysterious apartment building, where she encounters Deborah Kara Unger and Cameron Bright (both typecast) as a weird mother/son duo. It took 11 producers and four screenwriters to adapt Serge Brusollo’s best-selling novel and comic book Les Emmures. Thumbsup, however, for Karim Hussain’s evocative cinematography. Rated R. **

ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO (Genius Products): Like the title says, the latest comedy from writer/director/editor Kevin Smith features Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks as long-time friends and (platonic) roommates who decide to make ends meet by filming their own X-rated epic. Well acted, with some hilarious moments, but the juxtaposition between sweetness and raunchiness is frequently jarring. Rated R. **’½

Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock 92. Copyright 2009, Mark Burger

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