BY MARK BURGERmarksburger@yahoo.com
DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: THE NAKED TRUTH (VCI Entertainment)
Producer/director Mario Zampi’s spry 1957 black comedy, also known as Your Past is Showing, is an amusing satire of celebrity scandals that doesn’t feel very, perhaps because today’s culture is even more consumed by celebrity.
Dennis Price plays the devious publisher of a scandal sheet (The Naked Truth) who informs a number of high-profile people that he’s got irrefutable proof of their transgressions but will suppress publishing it if they pay him off. His targets include Terry-Thomas as a high-ranking politician, Shirley Eaton as a glamorous fashion model, Peggy Mount as a noted author (not unlike Agatha Christie, it appears) and Peter Sellers as a popular TV star.
Desperate to save their careers, they instead decide to kill their blackmailer — first individually and then collectively. Needless to say, their murderous schemes tend to fail calamitously.
The spirited cast also includes Kenneth Griffith, Joan Sims, Miles Malleson and Michael Ripper, but the real scene-stealer is Sellers, in an early lead, whose gift for mimicry and propensity for outlandish disguises (so as not to be recognized) lead to some of the film’s funniest moments.
“THE AMAZING WORLD OF GUMBALL”:
THE DVD (Cartoon Network/Warner Home Video): A DVD compilation ($14.97 retail) of all 12 episodes from the initial 2011 season of the award-winning, animated children’s series following the misadventures of a 12-year-old gumball (voiced by Logan Grove).
“THE BIG BANG THEORY” (Warner Home Video): The top-rated, award-winning CBS situation comedy starring Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki and sexy Kaley Cuoco, now released in a DVD/Blu-ray combo: “The Complete First Season” (all 17 episodes from the initial 2007-’08 season) retails for $39.99, and “The Complete Second Season” (all 23 episodes from the 2008-’09 season) retails for $54.97. The second season yielded the series’ first three Emmy nominations, including Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series (Parsons, who has won twice since) and Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series (Christine Baranski).
THE FIGHTING ROOKIE (Alpha Home Entertainment): Prolific serial director Spencer Gordon Bennet helms this trim 1934 programmer with Jack LaRue as a rookie cop who goes undercover to crack the crime ring that set him up to take the fall during their previous job.
FORTRESS (Monarch Home Entertainment): Good aerial sequences can’t overcome a weak script (unduly heavy on profanity) in this old-hat World War II melodrama focusing on the crew of a B-17 Flying Fortress stationed in Italy in 1943. Memphis Belle did it better. Rated R.
“GLEE”: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): The singing and dancing continue as both the Nationals competition and graduation loom, in all 22 episodes from the 2011-’12 season of the top-rated, awardwinning Fox series. The regular cast includes Lea Michele, Dyanna Agron, Cory Monteith, Matthew Morrison, Jayma Mays, Kevin McHale and Jane Lynch, with Dot Jones scoring one of the show’s three Emmy nominations as Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series. The DVD boxed set retails for $59.99, the Blu-ray boxed set for $69.99.
THE HUNGER GAMES (LionsGate Home Entertainment): The first of Suzanne Collins’ bestselling novels comes to the big screen in an overlong, heavy-handed adaptation that nonetheless scored big at the box-office thanks to a built-in audience and hype overdrive. In a totalitarian future, young people from various regions are pitted against one another in a winner-take-all, loser-dies competition. Director Gary Ross (who has since departed the franchise) displays little aptitude for science-fiction or action… which is precisely what the narrative requires. A good, ill-served cast includes Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Wes Bentley, Lenny Kravitz, Elizabeth Banks (all dressed up with nowhere to go) and a bored-looking Donald Sutherland (as the president). Only Stanley Tucci, as a glib emcee, brings any energy to the party. It won’t be hard for the inevitable sequel to top this. Rated PG-13.
KILL LIST (IFC Midnight/MPI Media Group): Director/co-writer Ben Wheatley’s award-winning shocker stars Neil Maskell as a hired assassin whose latest assignment goes disastrously wrong. The DVD retails for $24.98 and the Blu-ray for $29.98.
LET IT SHINE (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): An “extended edition” ($26.99 retail) of the Disney Channel musical comedy, loosely based on Cyrano de Bergerac, starring Coco Jones as a teen singing sensation torn between best friends Trevor Jackson and Tyler James Williams.
“POWERS RANGERS SUPER SAMU- RAI” (LionsGate Home Entertainment): The adventures of the latter-day incarnation of the “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” continue in this new Nickelodeon series: “The Super Powered Black Box” (Vol. 1) and “Super Showdown” (Vol. 2) each boast four full episodes. Each volume retails on DVD for $14.98.
SOUTH OF PANAMA (Alpha Home Entertainment): This silent comedy stars Edouardo Raquel as a representative for the International Export Company, assigned to broker a deal in the sleepy South American nation of El Tovar, unaware that his duplicitous boss (Philo McCullough) is planning to start a war with neighboring nation Caracon to sell more armaments. Surprisingly relevant satire with good support from top-billed Carmelita Geraghty as the girl who wins our hero’s heart and Lewis Sargent as a beer-swilling reporter (yeah!) covering the conflict. Any resemblance to actual, subsequent events in South America is undoubtedly coincidental — as this was made in 1928!
GHOUL FOOLS (Nickelodeon/Paramount Home Entertainment): Getting an early jump on the Halloween season, this DVD compilation ($15.99 retail) features selected episodes from the immensely popular, long-running and award-winning animated children’s series. (Some grownups like it, too!)
“TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES”:
THE FINAL SEASON (LionsGate Home Entertainment): The original television incarnation of the “heroes on the half-shell” comes to a close with all 10 episodes from the 1996 season (its tenth!) of the surprisingly popular, more surprisingly durable and most surprisingly award-winning (including an Emmy!) animated fantasy series pitting the title warriors against the forces of evil. The DVD retails for $14.98.
“TWO AND A HALF MEN”: THE COM- PLETE NINTH SEASON (Warner Home Video): Series stalwarts Jon Cryer and Angus T Jones are joined by Ashton Kutcher, in all 24 episodes from the 2011-’12 season of the top-rated, award-winning CBS situation comedy, which scored four Emmy nominations including Outstanding Lead Actor in Comedy Series (Cryer) and Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series (Kathy Bates). The DVD boxed set, replete with bonus features, retails for $44.98.
THE UNDYING (MTI Home Video): Robin Weigart stars in this contemporary ghost story about a grief-stricken doctor who encounters the spirit of a long-dead Civil War soldier when she moves to a (seemingly) placid rural community. Interesting idea doesn’t quite pan out, despite effective moments and good performances from Weigert and Wes Studi (as a fedora-clad detective). Co-screenwriter Steven Peros, making his feature directorial debut, may be a talent to watch.
“THE WEIGHT OF THE NATION” (HBO Home Entertainment): A four-part documentary examining the rapidly expanding (no pun intended) obesity problem in the United States. This special-edition DVD retails for $19.97.
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2012, Mark Burger.