DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: NAKED LUNCH (The Criterion Collection)
David Cronenberg’s 1991 screen version of William S. Burroughs’ controversial 1959 novel isn’t so much an adaptation as a reimagining and reinterpretation of the author’s hallucinatory head trip — although it very much captures the unique (and twisted) Burroughs spirit.Peter Weller, dynamically dazed and confused throughout, stars as Bill Lee (one of Burroughs’ pen names, incidentally), a troubled writer who descends into madness and mania after accidentally killing his wife (Judy Davis). Lee acts as our guide into the grotesque world of addiction and obsession as the story drifts further away from reality into a realm of bizarre fantasy.A stellar cast also includes Davis (in a dual role), Ian Holm, Julian Sands, Nicholas Campbell and Roy Scheider, the latter fiendishly funny as the seemingly sympathetic Dr. Benway. For all the dementia and despair, the film is also darkly humorous — for those who can take it. There’s a method to its madness, a point to its perversion. Naked Lunch is certainly not for everyone (nor is Burroughs’ novel, for that matter), but it’s certainly something else.The special edition includes an audio commentary with Cronenberg and Weller, a documentary, excerpts from the novel read by Burroughs himself, and more. Bug powder not included.The DVD retails for $29.95, the Blu-ray for $39.98. Rated R.
BEAUTY IS EMBARRASSING: THE WAYNE WHITE STORY (Docurama Films/Cinedigm): Neil Berkeley’s feature documentary ($29.95 retail) follows the life and career of artist/musician/raconteur/Emmy winner Wayne White (who also narrates), with appearances by Mimi Pond (White’s wife), Mark Mothersbaugh, Matt Groening, Paul Rubens (“Pee-Wee Herman”) and others.
“BEST OF LATINO LAUGH FESTIVAL” (CBS DVD/Paramount): Cheech Marin hosts this self-explanatory stand-up comedy spectacular ($14.99 retail) featuring Greg Giraldo, Culture Clash, Felipe Esparza, John Mendoza, Paul Rodriguez and others, plus guest appearances by Edward James Olmos, Maria Conchita Alonso, Geraldo Rivera and Erik Estrada.
THE COLOMBIAN CONNECTION (Inception Media Group): Ponderously paced but award-winning(!) shoot-’emup — originally titled Through the Eye and rife with CGI gunfire — stars Robert Thorne as an ex-cop who gets the chance to pay back the corrupt partner (Tom Sizemore) who set him up. Despite Sizemore’s top billing, his is a (smallish) supporting role. Rated R.
CONNECTED (Docurama Films/Cinedigm): Peter Coyote narrates Tiffany Shlain’s feature documentary ($29.95 retail), subtitled An Autobiography About Love, Death & Technology, which examines the impact of modern technology on contemporary culture. Rated PG.
DAY OF THE FALCON (Image Entertainment): Director Jean-Jacques Annaud’s adaptation of Hans Ruesch’s novel The Great Thirst stars Antonio Banderas and Mark Strong as early 20th century Middle Eastern monarchs whose rivalry is intensified when oil is discovered between their territories, as well as when their children (Frieda Pinto and Tahar Rahim) fall in love. Epic battle scenes highlight this topical drama that never quite ignites, although it’s not without interest. Originally titled Black Gold. Rated R.
DRESS PARADE (Alpha Home Entertainment): William Boyd forgoes his usual “Hopalong Cassidy” character for this 1927 silent, playing a cocky athlete who enrolls at West Point to win the girl of his dreams (Bessie Love), who also happens to be the daughter of the commandant (Clarence Geldert). This hokey but enjoyable melodrama was one of the last films directed by Donald Crisp before he concentrated solely on acting (winning an Oscar along the way).
ESCAPEE (Anchor Bay Entertainment): “Prison Break”’s Dominic Purcell is at large again, this time as a psychopath who slays anyone and everyone in his way as he stalks comely co-ed Christine Evangelista. Everyone in this glum shocker seems to be marking time, including Faith Ford as the obligatory detective. Rated R.
HALF THE SKY (Docurama Films/Cinedigm Entertainment Group): Subtitled Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, this documentary adaptation of Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s bestselling book follows Kristof as he seeks to end oppression against women worldwide, joined by celebrity advocates including America Ferrera, Diane Lane, Eva Mendes, Meg Ryan, Gabrielle Union and Olivia Wilde. The DVD retails for $29.95.
HOUSE ARREST (LionsGate): Stacey Dash finds herself in the title predicament after she and boyfriend Jayceon “The Game” Taylor are arrested for dealing in stolen property in this ham-fisted, embarrassing comedy/drama rife with stereotypes. Tyler Perry does this sort of thing much better. Dash is always easy on the eyes, but some of her recent films haven’t been. Rated R.
INTO THE COLD: A JOURNEY OF THE SOUL (Shelter Island): Sebastian Copeland’s award-winning documentary ($24.98 retail) follows Copeland and Keith Heger as they embark on a perilous two-month expedition to the North Pole — on foot, no less.
JACKIE CHAN DOUBLE FEATURE (Shout! Factory): A self-explanatory twinbill of action-packed cop thrillers directed by and starring Jackie Chan: Police Story (1985) and Police Story II (1988). Both films share executive producer Raymond Chow, screenwriters Chan and Edward Tang, producer Leonard Ho, and co-stars Maggie Cheung, Cho Yuen and Bill Tong. The DVD retails for $12.99, the Blu-ray for $19.97. Both films are rated PG-13.
JUST AROUND THE CORNER (Virgil Films): This documentary ($19.99 retail) recounts music promoter Bob Benjamin’s battle with Parkinson’s Disease, which inspired him to found the Light of Day Foundation that raises money for medical research via benefit concerts.
THE KICK (LionsGate): Ong-bak director and star Prachya Pinkaew and Petchtai Wongkamlao are up to their old kicks with this crime drama about a family of martial-artists targeted by thieves whose last robbery they foiled. The DVD retails for $26.98. Rated PG-13.
“MAVERICK”: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON (Warner Home Video): The West just got a little wilder as James Garner and Jack Kelly are back in action as the cardsharp brothers in all 26 episodes from the 1958-’59 season of the popular Western series originally broadcast on ABC. Winner of the Emmy Award as Best Western series, with five additional nominations including one for Garner as Best Actor in a Leading Role (Continuing Character) in a Dramatic Series. The six- DVD boxed set retails for $39.98.
ONE DAY ON EARTH (Docurama Films/Cinedigm): The title tells all in Kyle Ruddick’s feature documentary ($29.95 retail), subtitled The World’s Time Capsule, featuring video footage from amateur filmmakers around the world shot on Oct. 10, 2010
OVERTIME (VCI Entertainment): Al Snow and John Wells headline the amusing, award-winning debut feature of writer/producer/editor/directors Brian Cunningham and Matt Niehoff’s as a pair of hit-men whose latest job could be their last. A little rough around the edges, but good-natured and gory — with Snow and Wells a funny duo.
REPO MAN (The Criterion Collection): A special-edition re-release of Alex Cox’s award-winning, deliriously flaky 1984 cult favorite with Harry Dean Stanton as a veteran repo man and Emilio Estevez as his punk acolyte, in search of a 1964 Chevy Malibu in Southern California. That doesn’t even begin to describe this off-the-wall farce, which also involves government conspiracies, alien entities and Tracey Walter expounding on… well, just expounding. Special features include an audio commentary, retrospective interviews and even the TV version of the film. The DVD retails for $29.95, the Blu-ray for $39.99. Rated R.
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2013, Mark Burger.