PICK OF THE WEEK:
CAPRICORN ONE (LionsGate Home Entertainment): A 30 th -anniversary special edition of Peter Hyams’ vastly entertaining 1978 conspiracy thriller — one of the best films ever produced by Sir Lew Grade’s ITC Entertainment and a huge favorite from my wayward youth. The conspiracy in question is a faked landing on Mars by the title spacecraft, engineered by NASA scientist Dr. James Kelloway (Hal Holbrook at his unctuous best) in a last-ditch effort to save the space program. The three astronauts (James Brolin, Sam Waterston and OJ Simpson) go along with the ruse, until they realize that the secret is safer if they’re out of the way — permanently. Top-billed Elliott Gould is terrific as crackerjack reporter Caulfield — a boyhood inspiration for yours truly — who stumbles across the story, and there’s nice work also from Vaccaro (as Brolin’s wife), Karen Black, David Huddleston, Robert Walden, David Doyle (as Gould’s sarcastic editor) and Telly Savalas, in a fabulous cameo appearance as a wise-ass crop-dusting pilot — Albain by name — who figures prominently in the film’s high-flying, slam-bang climax. There are a few lapses in credibility, but not enough to ruin the suspense or the fun. Also worthy of note: A great score by the great Jerry Goldsmith and Hyams’ crackling dialogue, especially in the exchanges between Savalas and Gould. This special edition includes a commentary with the writer/director. Rated PG. ***’
ALSO ON DVD:
BARRACUDA (Dark Sky Films): This earnest, lowbudget drive-in shocker, again from 1978, stars Wayne David Crawford (who also co-wrote and co-produced with director Harry Kerwin) as an idealistic marine biologist who discovers some very shady doings in a sleepy Florida beach resort. A cast of pros includes Jason Evers, Bert Freed, William Kerwin (Harry’s brother), Cliff Emmich, Harry Kerwin himself, and future soap-opera star Roberta Leighton (in her screen debut). Less a Jaws knockoff than a conspiracy thriller, this isn’t great but it’s not bad either, and the finale is truly a surprise. This marked the final film of Harry Kerwin, who died in ’79 but made a name for himself making a number of low-budget drive-in favorites during the ’60s and ’70s. This is being released as part of a “Drive- In Double Feature” that also includes 1983’s Island Fury (AKA, if you can believe it, Please Don’t Eat the Babies), in which a group of babes find themselves terrorized by a family of killers on a remote island. (For an exclusive interview with Barracuda leading man Crawford, see page 46.) Rated PG. **
“THE COLOR HONEYMOONERS” — COLLECTION 4 (MPI Home Video): A selection of 12 episodes from the CBS-TV prime-time variety series “The Jackie Gleason Show,” in which the Great One reprised his role as Ralph Kramden, with Emmy Award winner Art Carney as Ed Norton, Sheila MacRae as Alice Kramden and Jane Kean as Trixie Norton. This three-DVD boxed set, which includes a special 1973 “Honeymooners” reunion sketch, retails for $39.98.
“ELI STONE” — THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): Jonny Lee Miller plays a San Francisco attorney who could either be a latter-day prophet, or is perhaps suffering from a brain tumor, in all 13 episodes from the 2008 season of the prime-time ABC-TV that also features Natasha Henstridge, Victor Garber and Loretta Devine. This boxed set, which retails for $39.99, includes a variety of bonus features.
THE FOOT FIST WAY (Paramount Home Entertainment): Producer/director Jody Hill’s winning feature debut is a spirited, cheerfully vulgar lowbudget comedy focusing on the life and philosophy of a strip-mall Tae Kwon Do instructor (Danny McBride) in lovely Concord, NC. McBride, Hill and co-star Ben Best — who also wrote the script together — are all graduates of the NC School of the Arts in Winston-Salem. The boys have done themselves, and the school, proud. Rated R. ***
“GREY’S ANATOMY”: THE COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON — EXPANDED (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): All 16 episodes from the 2007-’08 season of the top-rated ABC-TV primetime drama detailing the professional and personal lives of the medical staff of Seattle Grace Hospital. Ellen Pompeo heads the ensemble cast, which includes Katherine Heigl, Patrick Dempsey, Sandra Oh and Chandra Wilson. Five Emmy nominations including two for outstanding supporting actress in a drama series (Oh and Wilson) and guest actress in a drama series (Diahann Carroll). This boxed set retails for $59.99.
I’M THROUGH WITH WHITE GIRLS (One Village Entertainment/Image Entertainment): Lia Johnson (also a producer) and Anthony Montgomery are a likable romantic duo in this award-winning romantic comedy about a girl and a guy who are clearly perfect for each other — they smoke the same brand of cigarette, for one thing — but still find the road to romance a rocky one. Ryan Alosio, Johnny Brown and Richard Lawson offer solid support, and any film that features Men Without Hats’ “Safety Dance” simply can’t be all bad. Rated R. **’
IRON MAN (Paramount Home Entertainment): Robert Downey Jr. portrays wealthy arms developer Tony Stark, as well as his superhero alter-ego, in this entertaining, grand-scale adaptation of the Marvel Comics character. For once, a high-concept comic-book film that delivers the goods — and it delivered big bucks at the box-office, too. A solid supporting cast includes Jeff Bridges, Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard and director Jon Favreau (who unaccountably disappears from the proceedings). Expect sequels. Rated PG-13. ***
JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH (RHI Entertainment/Genius Products): We all know the Earth is round, but this sub-par rendition of the Jules Verne classic is pretty flat. Rick Schroder leads an expedition to the title destination — where the sun don’t shine. Echoes of Joseph Conrad and bad CGI special effects add up to one clunky experience. *
THE KILLING OF JOHN LENNON (Genius Products): The title tells all in writer/director Andrew Piddington’s visually dazzling but (predictably) depressing attempt to get inside the head of Mark David Chapman (Jonas Ball), the man who shot John Lennon to death on Dec. 8, 1980. Much of Chapman’s dialogue is taken directly from interviews and court transcripts. In his screen debut, Ball is impressive in the pivotal role. Filmed in and around the actual locations in New York City where Chapman walked the streets, including the Dakota. ***
LARRY FLYNT: THE RIGHT TO BE LEFT ALONE (Liberation Entertainment): Joan Brooker-Marks’ free-wheeling documentary traces the career of Hustler publisher Larry Flynt, whose remarkable (and controversial) journey has taken him from pornographer to prognosticator of the First Amendment. Totally one-sided, but no less enjoyable or relevant as a result. ***
THE LOVE GURU (Paramount Home Entertainment): Mike Myers co-wrote, produced and stars in this alarmingly flimsy farce about an Indian guru who is called upon to reverse the fortunes of the Los Angeles Kings hockey team. Clearly an homage to Myers’ idol Peter Sellers (particularly in the film The Party), but a major misfire nonetheless. Lost amid the gags are the likes of Jessica Alba, Justin Timberlake, John Oliver, Meagan Good, Telma Hopkins, Romany Malco, the inescapable Verne Troyer and even Ben Kingsley, with cameos by Val Kilmer, Jessica Simpson, Kanye West, Mariska Hargitay, Deepak Chopra and Myers as themselves. The best parts of the film are the musical numbers at the beginning and the end; everything in-between is negligible. Rated PG-13. *
“PRIVATE PRACTICE” — THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON: EXTENDED EDITION (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): Kate Walsh’s Dr. Addison Montgomery makes the move from “Grey’s Anatomy” (see above) to her own prime-time ABC-TV series, all nine episodes of which (from the 2007’08 season) are included in this three-disc boxed set, which retails for $39.99. The all-star ensemble includes Tim Daly, Amy Brenneman and Taye Diggs.
“ROB & BIG” — THE COMPLETE UNCENSORED THIRD SEASON (MTV Home Entertainment/Paramount Home Entertainment): All 15 episodes from the popular MTV reality series focusing on the misadventures of professional skateboarder Rob Dyrdek and his best bud and bodyguard, Christopher “Big Black” Boykin. This three-disc boxed set retails for $39.99.
SOMETHING BENEATH (RHI Entertainment/Genius Products): Kevin Sorbo (as a heroic priest!), Natalie Brown and Peter MacNeill are pitted against a subterranean slime run amuck in this silly shocker that passes the time easily enough. **
SUNDOWN: THE VAMPIRE IN RETREAT (Lions- Gate Home Entertainment): A special-edition DVD of co-writer/director Anthony Hickox’s light-heart-n ed (and sometimes light-headed) 1990 comedy vampire Western, in which two factions of bloodsuckers square off in a remote Southwestern town. A star-studded ensemble cast includes David Carradine (as Count Mardulak), Bruce Campbell (as a latter-day Van Helsing), John Ireland, M Emmet Walsh, Bert Remsen, Maxwell Caulfield, Jim Metzler, Morgan Brittany, Deborah Foreman and Dana Ashbrook. This bypassed US theatrical release when distributor Vestron Pictures went bust, but it found a cult following on home-video and cable. Rated R. **’
THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (Dark Sky Films): Tobe Hooper’s oft-imitated, never-equaled (and badly remade) 1974 horror classic makes its Blu-ray debut, retailing for $29.98. Rated R. ***
“UGLY BETTY” — THE COMPLETE SECOND SEA- SON (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): America Ferrera returns as the geeky but guileless heroine in all 18 episodes from the 2007-’08 season of the award-winning ABC-TV prime-time situation comedy. Ferrera earned an Emmy nomination as outstanding lead actress in a comedy series, with Vanessa Williams picking up a nomination of her own as outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series. This boxed set retails for $59.99.
VIPERS (RHI Entertainment/Genius Products): Genetically-enhanced (and computer-generated) snakes slither through a remote Pacific Northwest town in this silly but fast-moving shocker featuring Tara Reid, Jonathan Scarfe, Jessica Steen, Corbin Bernsen (as a corporate baddie — imagine that!) and the late Don S. Davis in one of his last roles. **
WHEN WE LEFT EARTH: THE NASA MISSIONS (Image Entertainment) Unlike Capricorn One (see above), this epic documentary that details the actual history of the American space program, narrated by Gary Sinise and featuring rare archival footage, originally broadcast in six parts on the Discovery Channel. This four-disc boxed set retails for $49.98.
Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock- 92. Copyright 2008, Mark Burger