by Brian Clarey


Were it not for a confusing script, this 1972 adaptation of James Munro’s novel might well have been one of the better of the many James Bond knock-offs that proliferated during that time.Reliable Stanley Baker stars as British agent John Craig (in one scene he introduces himself: “My name is Craig — John Craig”), assigned to track down a Russian scientist (Vladek Sheybal). Craig’s on edge because his last assignment went badly and because his “competition” includes two younger agents from his own division (Derren Nesbitt and Sue Lloyd).There’s plenty of rough-and-tumble action, along with countless double-crosses, set-ups and plot twists, accentuated by Johnny Keating’s brassy (and Bond-like) score. It doesn’t make much sense, but it’s never dull and there’s a fine cast on hand: Geraldine Chaplin, Dana Andrews, Warren Mitchell, Ferdy Mayne, Cec Linder (who appeared in Goldfinger) and Donald Pleasence, at his best as Craig’s fussy, two-faced superior.Rated PG.

ALBERT NOBBS (LionsGate): Glenn Close earned an Oscar nomination as Best Actress for her performance in Rodrigo Garcia’s compassionate, well acted adaptation of George Moore’s novella, as a 19th century butler who is actually a woman posing as a man. A labor of love for Close, who played the role on the New York stage 30 years ago; she produced, co-scripted and even wrote the theme song “Lay Your Head Down.” Additional nominations for Best Supporting Actress (the terrific Janet McTeer) and Best Makeup. Rated R.

“ANGER MANAGEMENT”: SEASON ONE (LionsGate): Charlie Sheen dispenses compassion and wisdom as only he can, playing an unorthodox therapist in all 10 episodes from the inaugural 2012 season of the FX Network comedy series, backed by Selma Blair, Shawnee Smith, Daniela Bobadilla, Barry Corbin, Brett Butler and, occasionally, real-life dad Martin Sheen. The DVD boxed set retails for $29.97, the Blu-ray boxed set for $29.98.

CONCEPTION (Tribeca Film/Cinedigm Entertainment Group): Writer/director Josh Stolberg’s hit-or-miss comedy offers a series of vignettes of various couples on the night each conceives a baby. A few funny and sexy moments, but too many shrill ones. Aided enormously by a star-studded cast including Connie Britton, Julie Bowen, David Arquette, Moon Bloodgood, Sarah Hyland, Jonathan Silverman, Alan Tudyk and America Olivo.

THE DEVIL’S ROCK (Entertainment One): Special-effects maestro Paul Campion makes his directorial debut with this shocker wherein Allied commandos Craig Hall and Karlos Drinkwater encounter an ancient evil while on a mission to destroy a Nazi bunker in the Channel Islands. Gory and atmospheric, but never quite peaks.

DREDD (LionsGate): Karl Urban dons the helmet of the futuristic crime-fighter in this R-rated, big-screen adaptation of the popular comic book. Hopes for a franchise quickly evaporated when this grossed less than the much-derided 1995 Sylvester Stallone version. The DVD retails for $29.95, the Blu-ray for $39.99.

“DUCK DYNASTY”: SEASON 2, VOLUME 1 (LionsGate): A two-DVD boxed set ($19.98 retail) of the first 13 episodes from the 2012 season of the popular A&E reality series following the Robertson family, a clan from the Louisiana Bayou that made a fortune in a duck-call enterprise.

THE GHOSTMAKER (LionsGate): This low-budget shocker echoes Flatliners (1990) as it concerns a device that allows people to experience the world as a ghost. Interesting idea is buried by indifferent plotting and uninteresting characters. Rated R.

“GUNSMOKE”: THE SEVENTH SEASON (CBS DVD/Paramount Home Entertainment): James Arness saddles up for more action as Dodge City’s marshal Matt Dillon, in all 34 episodes from the 1961-’62 season of the long-running, award-winning CBS Western series. “Volume 1” contains the first 17 episodes and “Volume 2” the last 17. Each DVD boxed set retails for $39.99.

HOLLOW (Tribeca Film/Cinedigm Entertainment Group): The Blair Witch Project goes British with a thud in this low-budget “foundfootage” shocker about four friends mucking about in the supposedly haunted Greyfriars’ Hollow in East Anglia. Too few scares and characters that tend to be grating.

IRON SKY (Entertainment One): Having hidden out on the moon since the end of World War II, Nazis return to Earth in flying saucers to conquer the planet and establish the Fourth Reich in this award-winning, satirical sci-fi blowout. It must be satirical, given that cult favorite Udo Kier plays the Moon Fuhrer! The DVD retails for $19.98, the Blu-ray for $24.98. Rated R.

LAY THE FAVORITE (Radius-TWC/Anchor Bay Entertainment): Director Stephen Frears’ adaptation of Beth Raymer’s bestselling memoir about sports gambling in Las Vegas was barely released, despite a cast including Bruce Willis, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Rebecca Hall, Vince Vaughn, Joshua Jackson, John Carroll Lynch, Wendell Pierce and Laura Prepon. The DVD retails for $24.98, the Blu-ray for $29.98. Rated R.

RUBY SPARKS (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Real-life sweethearts Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan star in this R-rated comedy (written by Kazan) about a struggling writer who is inspired when the perfect girl he’s written about materializes. Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas, Steve Coogan, Chris Messina and Elliott Gould round out the cast. Dano and Kazan were also executive producers. The DVD and Blu-ray each retail for $29.98.

SPECIAL FORCES (Entertainment One): When journalist Diane Kruger is kidnapped by the Taliban, the title unit (under the command of Djimon Hounsou) embarks on a perilous rescue mission in the feature debut of writer/producer/director Stephane Rybojad. Fairly conventional storyline distinguished by terrific stunt work and exciting action sequences. Rated R.

SPIDERS (Millennium Entertainment): An old Soviet satellite crashes to Earth, unleashing a horde of giant CGI arachnids upon New York City (actually Bulgaria!) in this mechanical monster mash, needlessly complicated by a conspiracy subplot. Director/co-screenwriter Tibor Takacs has made some interesting shockers in the past (The Gate, I Madman) but this isn’t one of them. Patrick Muldoon, Christa Campbell and newcomer Sydney Sweeney head the human contingent as an endangered family. Rated PG-13.

“SWAMP PEOPLE”: SEASON 3 (Lions- Gate): The “Gator Gold Rush” commences in all 22 episodes from the 2012 season of the popular History Channel reality series set in the Atchafalaya Basin in the Louisiana Bayou. The six-DVD boxed set retails for $24.98.

TRIGGER (Wolfe Video): Molly Parker and Tracy Wright (in her final role) headline this award-winning drama about the reunion of two female rock stars a decade after their break-up. The film was rushed into production after Wright was diagnosed with cancer, which adds emotional resonance. Sarah Polley, Lenore Zann, screenwriter Daniel MacIvor, Don McKellar (Wright’s real-life husband) and executive producer Callum Keith Rennie also appear.

ULTRAMARINES: A WARHAMMER 40,000 UNIVERSE MOVIE (Games Workshop/Anchor Bay Entertainment): Terence Stamp, John Hurt and Sean Pertwee lend their voices to this CGI animated sci-fi action thriller based on the popular game franchise, set in the 41st millennium. The DVD retails for $19.98, the Blu-ray for $24.99. Rated R.

YELLING TO THE SKY (MPI Home Video): Writer/producer/director Victoria Mahoney’s feature debut stars Zoe Kravitz (real-life daughter of Lenny Kravitz and Lisa Bonet) as a teenager trying to survive the mean streets of New York City. Jason Clarke, Tim Blake Nelson and Gabourey Sidibe co-star. The DVD retails for $24.98, the Blu-ray for $29.98.

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

2013, Mark Burger.