Marker Burger’s Video Vault

by Mark Burger


DELIVERANCE (Warner Home Video): Director John Boorman’s powerhouse 1972 adaptation of James Dickey’s bestseller gets the deluxe-DVD treatment with this 35th anniversary special edition.

Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ronny Cox and Ned Beatty (in his screen debut) brilliantly portray four Atlanta businessmen whose weekend canoe trip in the Georgia backwoods turns into a grueling nightmare after they encounter a pair of sadistic mountain men (Bill McKinney and Herbert “Cowboy” Coward).

To survive this ordeal, each of the four men must confront their own weaknesses – but in doing so they sacrifice a part of their collective humanity. In addition to being a first-rate adventure yarn, the film also makes many points about what it means to be a man. It is by no means a pleasant film, but it is an incisive and powerfully observant one – as well as being a perfect realization of Dickey’s novel. (Dickey appears as the sheriff at the end of the film.)

The film was nominated for three Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director and Best Editing. The DVD special features include a retrospective documentary and an informative commentary by Boorman. Rated R. ****


CHINA STRIKE FORCE (Dimension Home Video): Mark Dacascos and Coolio (playing a character named “Coolio”) are the bad guys in producer/director Stanley Tong’s standard-issue martial-arts thriller, distinguished only by a hair-raising, high-rise finale. Rated R. **

FACE/OFF (Paramount Home Video): Director John Woo’s knockout 1997 action-fantasy stars John Travolta as an FBI agent hell-bent on nailing top criminal Nicolas Cage, so they wind up switching faces – and trading identities – as a result. Incredibly, all of it works. A masterful triumph of style over substance, with both stars in awesome form and a sharp supporting cast (Gina Gerson, Dominique Swain, Alessandro Nivola, Nick Cassavetes, CCH Pounder, Harve Presnell, Colm Feore and the great Joan Allen). One of the 10 best films of its year. Oscar nomination for Best Sound Effects Editing. Rated R. ***1/2

FLASHDANCE (Paramount Home Entertainment): The immortal tale of Pittsburgh’s most glamorous blue-collar steelworker (Jennifer Beals) and her dream to become a dancer. Adrian Lyne’s laughably hokey 1983 melodrama not only became a huge box-office smash but notched four Academy Award nominations and won the Oscar for Best Song (“Flashdance… What a Feeling”). After nearly 25 years, and with its place in pop-culture history firmly established, its appeal continues to escape me. Some things never change. This special collector’s edition contains all sorts of featurettes, for those who care. Sadly, this was the last feature film for lovely Sunny Johnson (“Jeanie”), who died of a brain aneurysm shortly after its release. Rated R. *

FORTRESS OF AMERIKKKA (Troma Team Video): Writer/director Eric Louzil’s post-apocalyptic 1989 schlock is a senseless smorgasbord of gratuitous violence, nudity and wooden acting. Even by Troma’s (low) standards, this is pretty bad. Rated R. *

GEORGIA RULE (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): Three generations of women (Jane Fonda, Felicity Huffman and Lindsay Lohan) come to terms with the ties that bind in director Garry Marshall’s uncomfortably and unbelievably misguided comedy/drama. One of the year’s weirdest and worst films, which earned most of its media coverage due to Lohan’s off-screen misbehavior. Rated R. *

“GHOST WHISPERER” – THE SECOND SEASON (Paramount Home Video): The luscious Jennifer Love Hewitt continues to solidify her foundation as a “scream queen” in the 2006-’07 season (22 episodes) of the award-winning CBS prime-time series inspired by the work of “spirit communicator” Mary Ann Wintkowski (who, by the way, looks nothing like Hewitt). This boxed set, which is chock full of extras, retails for $57.95.

THE GREAT NORTHFIELD, MINNESOTA RAID (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): Cliff Robertson plays Cole Younger and Robert Duvall plays Jesse James in Philip Kaufman’s revisionist 1972 Western detailing a daring but ill-conceived bank robbery. This unconventional outing, steeped in irony, found no favor at the box-office but has undergone something of a reappraisal over the years. Interesting score by Dave Grusin. Rated PG. **1/2

ICE QUEEN (MTI Home Video): Survivors of an avalanche find themselves battling a murderous prehistoric female specimen that has chosen exactly the wrong time to thaw out. This low-budget horror flick is utterly ridiculous, of course, but it has a few amusing bits and a wet T-shirt contest, to boot. Ami Veevers-Chorlton plays the toothy title role. Rated R. *1/2

“JUDGE JUDY” – JUSTICE SERVED (Allumination FilmWorks): Highlights from the past 11 seasons of the popular, Emmy-nominated, syndicated series, presided over by Judge Judy Sheindlin, are included in this special-edition DVD that retails for $19.98.

LA SCORTA (Blue Underground): Director Ricky Tognazzi’s award-winning, fact-based 1993 melodrama about a group of police bodyguards (not unlike “The Untouchables”) who battle police corruption and governmental indifference as they protect a judge (Carlo Cecchi) on a crusade to investigate the mafia in Sicily. Well acted and punchy, with a snappy score by Ennio Morricone. ***

LEPRECHAUN: BACK 2 THA HOOD (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Warwick Davis returns in the sixth installment of the horror franchise, bringing horror to the ‘hood. Not without a couple of minor charms, and of course the door’s left open for another sequel. Rated R. **

“SUPERNATURAL” – THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON (Warner Home Video): The brothers Winchester (Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles) continue to encounter otherworldly phenomena in all 22 episodes from the 2005-’07 season of the popular CW Television Network series. This boxed set retails for $59.98.

“TWO AND A HALF MEN” – THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (Warner Home Video): Divorced brothers Charlie Sheen and Jon Cryer wind up sharing the same bachelor pad, along with the latter’s son (Angus T. Jones), in this hit CBS situation comedy. All 24 episodes from the 2003-’04 season (when it earned three Emmy nominations) are included in this boxed set, which retails for $44.98.

“UGLY BETTY”: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON – THE BETTYFIED EDITION (Buena Vista Home Entertainment): All 21 episodes from the 2006-’07 season of the award-winning prime-time ABC situation comedy which earned five Emmy Award nominations including Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for America Ferrara. This boxed set retails for $59.99.

WE ARE MARSHALL (Warner Home Video): A rousing, fact-based sports saga about the Marshall University football program in West Virginia, which was decimated by a tragic airline crash in 1970, only to rebuild under the guidance of a new coach (Matthew McConaughey) and the fervent, albeit conflicted support of the students and fans. To date, the best film directed by McG, with excellent support from Matthew Fox and especially David Strathairn (as the college president). Rated PG. ***

WILD HOGS (Touchstone Home Entertainment): Sitcom-level comedy about four middle-aged motorcyclists (John Travolta, Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence and William H. Macy) who embark on a cross-country trip from Cincinnati to the Pacific Ocean. This stays afloat thanks to the good-natured cast – which also includes Marisa Tomei, Jill Hennessy, John C. McGinley, Stephen Tobolowsky, Kyle Gass, Peter Fonda and a very funny Ray Liotta – and was a surprise box-office hit. Rated PG. **

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