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by Mark Burger

Mark Burger’´s VIDEO VAULT

ABBOTT AND COSTELLO: THE COMPLETE UNIVERSAL PICTURES COLLECTION (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): For much of the 1940s, the comedy duo of Bud Abbott (1896-1974) and Lou Costello (1906- 1959) were among the top- 10 box-office draws in the country, and this boxed set ($119.98 retail) contains all 28 films they made during their stint at Universal Studios — from their screen debut in One Night in the Tropics (1940) to Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955). For a lot of people, this is going to make a great Christmas present. At almost two films a year, some are better than others, and a few are negligible at best. Even at their worst, however, these comedies kill time painlessly enough… and who better to kill time with than Bud and Lou? This mammoth collection includes some of the duo’s true gems, including Hold That Ghost (1941), Who Done It? (1942), The Time of Their Lives (1946), Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff (1949) and the best of them all, 1948’s Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, which took the studio by surprise when it became the biggest hit of the year. Bud and Lou’s most famous routine, “Who’s on First?” is featured in One Night in the Tropics and then again in The Naughty Nineties (1945), which is the version that is best known. We all have our favorite comedy teams: the Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy, the Three Stooges, Martin and Lewis and so on. But Abbott and Costello have their place, too. They were funny then, and they’re still making people laugh today. This Thanksgiving, that’s something to be thankful for.

ALSO ON DVD “ACCORDING TO JIM” — SEASON ONE (LionsGate Home Entertainment): All 22 episodes from the 2001-’02 season of the popular (and ongoing) ABC-TV prime-time sitcom with Jim Belushi as a gruff but lovable bluecollar patriarch with an adoring and sassy wife (Courtney Thorne-Smith) and their precocious kids. It’s a formula that has made many a hit sitcom since the dawn of television. This four- DVD boxed set retails for $39.98.

BOSS (VCI Entertainment): The indomitable Fred Williamson lays down the law in director Jack Arnold’s light-hearted 1975 “blaxploitation” Western, playing a bounty hunter who cleans up a corrupt town with the help of wisecracking sidekick D’Urville Martin. Other familiar faces on hand include RG Armstrong and William Smith (as bad guys, of course). The original title of this PG-rated (!) film was Boss Ni–er, replete with a theme song by someone called “Terrible Tom,” and it’s not difficult to see why the title change. There’s a legend at the beginning of the film from Williamson, who also wrote and co-produced the film, explaining it. This is good B-movie fun, especially for devotees of Williamson… and that includes yours truly. **’½

CONFESSIONS OF A PIT FIGHTER (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Writer/coproducer/director Art Camacho’s melodrama depicts the rigors and dangers of underground pit fighting. A better-than-average cast includes Armand Assante (as a crime lord), James Russo (who narrates in gravelly fashion), John Savage, Elya Baskin, Flavor Flav and Richard Herd (as a quintessential, Pat O’Brien-type priest — replete with Irish brogue), as well as such real-life martial artists and professional fighters as Hector Echavarria, Rigan and Jigan Machado and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, but this is routine in the extreme. Rated R. *’½

DICK TRACY VS. CRIME, INC. (VCI Entertainment): Ralph Byrd returns as the tenacious G-man, immortalized in Chester Gould’s comic strip, in this 15-chapter serial from 1941. Here, Tracy battles a nefarious crime kingpin known as “The Ghost” because he can make himself invisible. The serial is introduced by author Max Allan Collins, who supervised the comic strip from 1977 to 1993. This boxed set retails for $29.99.

THE DISCOVERY ESSENTIAL DINOSAUR PACK (Image Entertainment): The incredible legacy of dinosaurs is examined in this collection of award-winning Discovery Channel miniseries’ and specials, including “Valley of the T. Rex,” “T. Rex: New Science New Beast,” “When Dinosaurs Roamed America,” “Utah’s Dino Graveyard,” “The Mystery Dinosaur,” “Dinosaurs: Return to Life?” and “Dinosaur Planet,” which won Emmy Awards for outstanding sound editing for non-fiction programming (single- or multi-camera) and sound mixing for non-fiction programming (single- or multi-camera). This boxed set retails for $29.98.

DUNSMORE (Image Entertainment): This fact-based melodrama focuses on the mysterious murder of a small-town Florida bully (extremely well-played by W. Earl Brown), as looked into by a state investigator (Kadeem Hardison). The low-budget seams show, and the flashbacks occasionally disrupt the momentum, but this certainly has its moments — thanks in large part to a sturdy ensemble cast: Barry Corbin, Talia Shire, Brett Rice, Rus Blackwell, Jeanetta Arnette and Alicia Lagano. An auspicious feature debut for writer/producer Michael Andrews. Dunsmore, as you might have guessed, is the name of the town. Rated R. **’½

THE FILMS OF MICHAEL SPORN (First Run Features): A selection of 12 animated short films created by Emmy-winning and Oscarnominated filmmaker Michael Sporn. This collection includes “Whitewash,” “The Talking Eggs,” “Champagne,” “The Hunting of the Snark,” “The Marzipan Pig,” “Jazztime Tale,” “Abel’s Island,” “The Dancing Frog,” “The Red Shoes,” “The Little Match Girl,” “The Emperor’s New Clothes” and “Nightingale.” The boxed set retails for $49.95; individual double features for $14.95.

FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): Jason Segal wrote and stars in this snappy comedy about a musician who is dumped by his TVstar girlfriend (Kristen Bell), so he vacations in Hawaii to forget about her… and winds up checking into the same hotel as his ex and her obnoxious new rock-star boyfriend (Russell Brand, who is hilarious). As you might expect, complications do ensue. There are distinct echoes of Neil Simon to the proceedings, but this ribald farce is winningly played by all concerned, including Mila Kunis, Bill Hader, Steve Landesberg (anybody remember “Barney Miller”? You should) and Jonah Hill, who’s a scream as a disturbingly star-struck waiter. Overlong at times, but the capper — a stage musical of Dracula performed with puppets — puts it over the top. Rated R (also available in an unrated edition, as well as an “ultimate comedy collection” edition). ***

HANCOCK (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Yet another Will Smith blockbuster, this uneven sci-fi comedy casts the former “Fresh Prince” (whose screen appeal almost holds it together) as a booze-soaked, dissipated superhero who tries to improve his image. The second half of the film takes some very odd detours, but that didn’t keep audiences away. Rated PG-13. Available in a single-disc edition ($28.96 retail), an unrated edition ($28.96 retail), a two-disc special edition ($34.95 retail) or Blu-ray ($39.95 retail). **

HOLIDAY INN (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): Former show-biz partners Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby vie for the affections of Marjorie Reynolds in this 1942 romantic comedy/ musical comedy chiefly remembered today for the introduction of Bing’s rendition of “White Christmas,” which won the Oscar that year as original song — and has been inescapable ever since. This also scored nominations for music scoring and for Irving Berlin’s original story. This three-disc collector’s edition ($26.98 retail) includes the original black-and-white and the new, colorized (humbug!) versions of the film, as well as the original soundtrack on CD.

THE INCREDIBLE HULK (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): Edward Norton (who had a hand in the screenplay) portrays scientist Bruce Banner, who is transformed into a greenskinned beast whenever he’s stressed out in this bombastic but strangely distant adaptation of the Marvel Comics hero, which — however you want to look at it — is either a sequel or a remake to the 2003 film, which disappointed some viewers. This one’s no better. Available in a single-disc DVD ($29.98 retail), a special-edition DVD ($34.98 retail), and a special-edition Bluray ($39.98 retail). Rated PG-13. **

“THE INCREDIBLE HULK” — THE COMPLETE FIFTH SEASON (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): The end of the road for Dr. David Banner (Bill Bixby) and his alter-ego, the Incredible Hulk (Lou Ferrigno), in all seven episodes from the 1981-’82 (and final) season of the prime-time CBS-TV series based on the popular Marvel Comics hero. This last season, the show scored an Emmy nomination for outstanding achievement in music composition (dramatic underscore) for a series (for the episode “Triangle”). This boxed set retails for $29.98.

“THE MIND OF MENCIA” — SEASON FOUR (Comedy Central Home Entertainment/ Paramount Home Entertainment): All 10 episodes ($29.99 retail) from the 2008 season of the Comedy Central reality series featuring comedian Carlos Mencia as he trips the light fantastic and examines the foibles of contemporary American society and culture. In addition, Comedy Central Home Entertainment. Paramount Home Entertainment is also releasing Carlos Mencia: Performance Enhanced — Extended and Uncensored, a sold-out standup show he performed at the Hard Rock Hotel in Hollywood, Fla. This DVD retails for $19.99.

MIRACLE DOGS TOO (MTI Home Video): Janine Turner, Charles Durning, Lesley Ann Warren, Patrick Muldoon and David Keith lend a little star power — although not enough — to this sugary family comedy about a pair of lost pups with mystical healing abilities. Ostensibly a sequel to a 2003 film, but aside from the dogs they’re not directly related. *’½

NFL PITTSBURGH STEELERS 5 GREATEST GAMES: THE SUPER BOWL VICTORIES (NFL Films/Warner Home Video): Like the title says, this boxed set ($39.92 retail) contains the full television broadcasts of all five Super Bowl championships won by the Pittsburgh Steelers: 1974, ’75, ’78, ’79 and 2005.

NFL WASHINGTON REDSKINS 3 GREATEST GAMES: THE SUPER BOWL VICTORIES (NFL Films/Warner Home Video): The Redskins have only won three Super Bowls (1982, ’87 and ’91), so this special-edition DVD ($26.95 retail) isn’t quite as extensive as the Steelers’ one (see above).

QUO VADIS (Warner Home Video): The rise of Christianity and the fall of Rome, depicted Hollywood-style in this grand-scale 1951 epic, filmed in location and based on the Nobel Prizewinning best-seller. The success of this film kicked off the Hollywood trend for big-budget Biblical epics. All-American Robert Taylor plays a Roman centurion who falls head over sandals for Christian slave Deborah Kerr (and who wouldn’t?). As the emperor Nero, Peter Ustinov acts up a storm and plays the lyre (instead of the fiddle) as Rome burns. Long and sometimes heavy-handed, but almost always entertaining. Nominated for eight Academy Awards: Best picture, supporting actor (Ustinov and Leo Genn), editing, score and cinematography, art direction/set decoration and costume design (color). ***

SHREK THE HALLS (DreamWorks Animation/Paramount Home Entertainment): The gang’s all here for this animated Christmas special originally broadcast on ABC-TV, in which everyone’s favorite green ogre (voice by Mike Myers) learns about the true meaning of the holidays — with a little help from Princess Fiona (voice by Cameron Diaz), Puss In Boots (voice by Antonio Banderas) and the indomitable Donkey (voice by Eddie Murphy), who wants to make waffles for Christmas. Good family fun. ***

ULTIMATE CLASSIC WRESTLING PRESENTS (Infinity Entertainment Group): For the wrestling fan on your Christmas list, this twodisc collector’s edition ($14.98) retails includes individual profiles of such popular stars of the ring as Jerry “The King” Lawler, Dustin Rhodes, Mark Callous, Mick “Cactus Jack” Foley, Jeff Jarrett and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.

Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2008, Mark Burger

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