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by Mark Burger

BY MARK BURGER marksburger@yahoo.com

DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: MEATBALLS (LionsGate Home Entertainment)

This 1979 sleeper gave big career boosts to first-time star Bill Murray and first-time director Ivan Reitman, and remains a quintessential summer-camp comedy, detailing the happy hijinks at Camp North Star. Murray plays head counselor Tripper Harrison, forever undermining camp owner Morty (Harvey Atkin), wooing fellow counselor Roxanne (Kate Lynch) and counseling lonely camper Rudy (Chris Makepeace in his screen debut) — all the while providing a wry, laid-back comic centerpiece. He’s undoubtedly the star of the show, but allows his co-stars a lot of room to operate. Unlike a lot of teen comedies — then or now — there’s an almost wholesome quality to the proceedings. The humor, predicated more on slapstick than raunch, is never meanspirited, and the characters (and actors playing them) are appealing. Special mention to Jack Blum as “Spaz,” the obligatory geek who gets his moment of triumph in one of the most rousing scenes.The DVD retails for $9.99, the new Blu-ray for $14.99. Rated PG.

THE BUNNY GAME (Autonomy Pictures):

Rodleen Getsic plays a junkie prostitute at the mercy of a psychopath (Jeff Renfro) in this controversial shocker marking the feature debut of producer/director Adam Rehmeier, written with Getsic. The DVD retails for $19.99, the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $29.99.

FLAME OVER INDIA (VCI Entertainment):

J. Lee Thompson directed this sweeping 1959 adventure spectacle set in 1905 India, starring Kenneth More as a British officer and Lauren Bacall as an American governess charged with spiriting a Hindu prince (Govind Raja Ross, in his first and only film) through hostile territory. Herbert Lom, Wilfrid Hyde- White, Ursula Jeans, IS Johar, Ian Hunter and Eugene Deckers round out a sturdy cast. Fine cinematography from Geoffrey Unsworth, with a nail-biting bridge sequence. Reportedly inspired by John Ford’s 1939 classic Stagecoach, with that film’s screenwriter Frank S. Nugent receiving story credit here. The original British title was North West Frontier (which over here would’ve suggested a Western); this is the original, longer British cut.

LA GRANDE ILLUSION (LionsGate Home Entertainment):

The special-edition Bluray debut ($29.99 retail) of Jean Renoir’s award-winning 1937 classic starring Jean Gabin, Pierre Fresnay and Marcel Dalio as prisoners of war in World War I, with Erich Von Stroheim as their ruthless captor. Hailed by many as one of the great films, and an Oscar nominee for Best Picture in 1938.

THE LIQUIDATOR (Millennium Entertainment):

Sub-par, heavily dubbed shoot-’emup with Berik Aitzhanov on the trail of his brother’s killers in Kazakhstan. Although prominently featured in the advertising, Vinnie Jones has only a small role as (what else?) a killer.

LOL (LionsGate Home Entertainment):

Director Lisa Azuelos unnecessarily remakes her award-winning 2008 French comedy, with toothy Miley Cyrus experiencing adolescent angst. Simultaneously over-complicated and underwhelming, with Demi Moore, Marlo Thomas, Thomas Jane, Ashley Greene, Gina Gershon, Fisher Stevens, Michelle Burke and Nora Dunn along for the ride. Despite the famous names, this was barely released to theaters. Miley’s mom Tish also produced. Rated PG-13.

THE LOVE GUIDE (Green Apple Entertainment):

Even Parker Posey, as a flaky, selfabsorbed TV guru, can’t save this forgettable farce involving a filmed TV segment at an organic chicken farm that wreaks havoc on the life and marriage of owner Christy Scott Cashman (who also wrote and produced). Nice having Kathryn Erbe around too, even if she hasn’t much to do. Originally (and more aptly) titled Sunny Side Up.

MORNING DEPARTURE (VCI Entertainment):

John Mills and Richard Attenborough star in director Roy Baker’s effective 1950 disaster drama, in which a British submarine strikes a mine left over from World War II and sinks to the ocean floor. Released in the US under the catchier title Operation Disaster and based on Kenneth Collard’s play, this earned unwarranted (and unwanted) controversy when a similar incident actually occurred in the Thames River just prior to release. A stalwart cast includes George Cole, Nigel Patrick, Victor Maddern, Kenneth More and Bernard Lee (later “M” in the Bond movies), particularly good as an officer determined to rescue the survivors. Baker and More would later reunite for one of the quintessential maritime disaster films, A Night to Remember. The absence of music except for the credits adds to the reality.

THE PRESENCE (LionsGate Home Entertainment):

Executive producer Mira Sorvino is spooked by the specter of Shane West in this spotty, sparse ghost story that plays like bad theater, although well-shot by Collin Brink. Composer Conrad Pope also costars with Justin Kirk, Tony Curran and Muse Watson. Rated PG-13.

“SQUIDBILLIES”: VOLUME FIVE (Adult Swim/Warner Home Video):

A DVD collection ($19.97 retail) of all 10 episodes from the 2010 season of the animated comedy series about a bunch of redneck squids at large in the Appalachian Mountains of Georgia.

STAGGER (VCI Entertainment):

Paul T.T. Easter co-wrote the story, makes his feature directorial debut and stars in this limp, low-budget British thriller about drug dealing gone bad. “A bit slapdash,” remarks one character, which could well apply to this incomprehensible jumble of jerky, hand-held camerawork, amateurish performances, and smug narration.

TOTAL RECALL (LionsGate Home Entertainment):

Just in time for the remake, the Blu-ray bow ($14.99 retail) of the “mind-bending edition” of Paul Verhoeven’s action-packed 1990 adaptation of Phillip K. Dick’s story We Can Rmember It For You Wholesale with Arnold Schwarzenegger undergoing quite an identity crisis on Earth and Mars. Great Jerry Goldsmith score. Winner of a special Oscar for Visual Effects, with nominations for Best Sound and Best Sound Effects Editing. Rated R.

WALLACE & GROMIT’S WORLD OF INVENTION (LionsGate Home Entertainment):

Aardman Animations brings the popular animated characters back for this six-part miniseries exploring a wide (and wild) variety of gadgets, gizmos and inventions. In the franchise’s 20-year history, “Wallace & Gromit” has been nominated for four Academy Awards — winning two — and earned a worldwide following, with another feature film in development. The DVD retails for $14.98, the Blu-ray for $14.99.

THE WAY AHEAD (VCI Entertainment):

Carol Reed’s rousing, sympathetic 1944 chronicle of Englishmen drafted into military service during World War II, with David Niven in top form as the young officer in charge, backed by first-rate, up-and-coming talent: Stanley Holloway, William Hartnell, Jimmy Hanley, Leo Genn, Raymond Huntley, James Donald, Hugh Burden, Trevor Howard, Tessie O’Shea (as herself), Renee Asherson (in her screen debut) and Peter Ustinov, who also wrote the screenplay with Eric Ambler. Released in the US in edited form as The Immortal Battalion. This is the full British version, which happened to open in the UK on June 6, 1944 (D-Day).

WILLIAM & CATHERINE: A ROYAL ROMANCE (LionsGate Home Entertainment):

Dan Ambroyer and Alice St. Clair play the title roles in this self-explanatory dramatization of the courtship and wedding of Prince Charles and Kate Middleton, with Jane Alexander as Queen Elizabeth, Victor Garber as Prince Charles, Jean Smart as Camilla Parker Bowles and Lesley Harcourt as the late Princess Diana. The DVD retails for $14.98.

MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2012, Mark Burger.

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