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by Mark Burger

 marksburger@yahoo.com

DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: THE MASTER (The Weinstein Company/Anchor Bay Entertainment)

Although critics were divided by Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest film, it earned three (welldeserved) Academy Award nominations for Best Actor (Joaquin Phoenix), Best Supporting Actor (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Best Supporting Actress (Amy Adams).After World War II, Freddie Quell (Phoenix), a disillusioned, possibly deranged veteran falls under the influence of Lancaster Dodd (a mesmerizing Hoffman), an author and philosopherwhose resemblance to Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard is no coincidence. In Dodd, Freddie finds a mentor and father figure. In Freddy, Dodd finds a follower and acolyte. But is he a visionary or a charlatan?Adams displays her versatility with a chilling turn as Dodd’s obsessive wife Peggy, and there’s a nice performance by Laura Dern as a Dodd devotee whose faith wavers. Jonny Greenwood contributes an usual but effective score, and Mihai Malaimare Jr.’s cinematography is evocative and eerie.The themes of identity and manipulation are deftly handled by Anderson in compelling and sometimes confounding fashion. He has yet to make a bad movie — although he does make long ones (this one runs over 140 minutes) — and they tend to have a distinctly American flavor, often bitter. This strenuous, stately, fascinating effort is no exception and, like his previous work, a true original. Rated R.

ATLAS SHRUGGED: PART II (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): The second of a planned three-part epic based on Ayn Rand’s futuristic allegory about the economic and social collapse of the world. An all-new cast includes Samantha Mathis, Jason Beghe, Esai Morales, Ray Wise, Rex Linn, Arye Gross, Richard T Jones, Paul McCrane, Robert Picardo, Michael Grosss, Stephen Macht, John Rubinstein, UNCSA grad Diedrich Bader and DB Sweeney (as the mysterious John Galt). The DVD retails for $22.98, the Blu-ray for $29.99. Rated PG-13.

BIRDERS: THE CENTRAL PARK EFFECT (Music Box Films Home Entertainment): In the tradition of The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill (2003), Jeffrey Kimball’s documentary ($19.95 retail) follows a group of bird-watchers in New York who congregate in Central Park.

BORDER RUN (Anchor Bay Entertainment): TV reporter Sharon Stone uncovers dirty dealings when her brother (Billy Zane) mysteriously vanishes near the US/Mexican border in this topical, R-rated thriller, available on DVD ($22.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($24.98 retail).

BULLY (The Weinstein Company/Anchor Bay Entertainment): Lee Hirsch’s heartbreaking, award-winning documentary follows five families whose lives have been irrevocably changed by children being bullied. This is a real wake-up call, both ringing and stinging with credibility. Rated PG-13.

HIGH SCHOOL (Anchor Bay Entertainment): The buds are burnin’ in this lightheaded teen comedy pairing Matt Bush and Sean Marquette as high-school students who try to get the entire school high. Like a lot of stoner comedies, the laughs tend to come in spurts and not always consistently, but a likable cast includes Michael Chiklis as an uptight principal, Colin Hanks, Yeardley Smith, Mykelti Williamson, Curtis Armstrong and Adrien Brody, having a ball as a dreadlocked dope dealer. Rated R.

LOVE ME (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Flat teen thriller with Lindsey Shaw as a new student at a tony prep school who is attracted to Jamie Johnston — unaware that his last girlfriend mysteriously vanished six months before. Whodunit is obvious. “Who cares?” is a more pressing issue. Rated PG-13.

MONDO MACABRO TITLES (CAV Distributing): CAV is now the exclusive distributor for the cult-friendly DVD label whose eclectic selection includes sciencefiction, action, foreign, softcore and good old-fashioned schlock: Clonus, Born of Fire, The Devil’s Sword, Lady Terminator, Don’t Open Till Christmas, Living Corpse, Mansion of Madness. Snake Dancer, The Warrior, The Girl in Room 2A and many more. Each DVD retails for $24.95. For a complete list, see: cavd. com/mondo_macabro.php.

NOBODY GETS OUT ALIVE (Image Entertainment): A group of dumb college kids go on a weekend trip into the woods, ignoring warnings about a madman (Brian Gallagher) who supposedly lurks there and… you can guess the rest. Cult favorite Clint Howard has one scene as a doctor, and this somehow won awards(!). Originally titled Down the Road but Down the Drain is more like it. ½

OFFICER DOWN (Anchor Bay Entertainment): After surviving a shooting, corrupt cop Stephen Dorff’s past comes back to haunt him in this stylish but convoluted melodrama. A few twists lift this out of the routine — but only so far. Ryan Samul’s cinematography is a plus, as is a seasoned cast including James Woods, Stephen Lang, Dominic Purcell, David Boreanaz, Walton Goggins, Richard Brooks, Johnny Messner, AnnaLynne McCord, Elisabeth Rohm and rapper Soulja Boy in his screen debut. Rated R.

PHOTOGRAPHIC MEMORY (First Run Features): Noted documentary filmmaker (and North Carolina native) Ross McElwee again turns the cameras on himself for this ingratiating, reflective look at his own youth and also that of his son Adrian, to whom the film is dedicated.

SEEDS OF DESTRUCTION (Anchor Bay Entertainment): An ecological catastrophe rocks planet Earth in this apocalyptic SyFy Channel feature now available on DVD ($19.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($24.99 retail). Rated PG-13.

SEEKING JUSTICE (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Roger Donaldson’s ersatz update of Hitchock’s Strangers on a Train (1951) with a vigilante twist stars Nicolas Cage as a New Orleans teacher who bargains with mystery man Guy Pearce after his wife (January Jones) is assaulted… only to realize that to repay the favor he’ll be tapped to commit murder. Farfetched but entertaining yarn, with a storyline that doesn’t bear close scrutiny and a cast that includes Jennifer Carpenter, Harold Perrineau and reliable Xander Berkeley. Rated R.

SKYFALL (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios/ Sony Pictures Entertainment/Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Under the assured direction of Sam Mendes, the 50th anniversary of the James Bond franchise gets a top-notch celebration in this, the 23rd film of the series — and one of the best ever. Daniel Craig is in top form as the indomitable 007, with stellar support from Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney and especially Javier Bardem, splendidly wicked as the villainous Silva. Five Academy Award nominations: Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing and Best Original Song. Rated PG-13.

THE TERMINATOR (MGM Home Entertainment/Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): A newly-remastered Blu-ray reissue ($19.99 retail) of James Cameron’s 1984 breakthrough sci-fi/action epic starring Arnold Schwarzenegger in the title role. Rated R.

THE THIEF OF BAGDAD (Cohen Media Group): A fully-restored version of director Raoul Walsh’s 1924 silent classic, starring a dashing and dauntless Douglas Fairbanks in the title role and featuring elaborate production design by the legendary William Cameron Menzies, now available on DVD ($24.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.98 retail).

THE WHOLE TRUTH (Green Apple Entertainment): Writer/executive producer/director Colleen Patrick’s feature debut is a broad, cartoonish courtroom farce with Elisabeth Rohm as a neurotic acting coach who specializes in tutoring accused criminals so that they win acquittals – only to encounter Eric Roberts, very funny as a hilariously coiffed Russian mobster who compels her to reassess her “career.” An unrecognizable Sean Patrick Flanery is charming as a has-been TV star and Rick Overton is a hoot as Roberts’ equally dim-witted sidekick. A little on the shrill side but not without its pleasures, particularly the cast. (For an exclusive interview with Eric Roberts, see Page 41).

MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2013, Mark Burger.

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