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[VIDEO VAULT]

by Mark Burger

marksburger@yahoo.comDVD PICK OF THE WEEK: THE ICE STORM(The Criterion Collection)

Director Ang Lee has won two Academy Awards (Brokeback Mountain and Life of Pi), but this devastating 1997 adaptation of Rick Moody’s bestseller ranks among his very best films — and newly available on Blu-ray ($39.95 retail).Set in an affluent Connecticut community in 1973, the story follows a group of characters — mostly parents and children — at loose ends, trying to establish emotional connections with each other yet consumed by doubt and angst. James Schamus’ intelligent, mature screenplay is steeped in irony, yet Lee never loses sight of these people’s humanity. As mixed-up as they are, they remain empathetic throughout.The pall of divorce seems to hang over the proceedings, with both adult and adolescent characters feeling the tension. The ensemble cast is superb: Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver, Joan Allen, Jamey Sheridan, Christina Ricci, Tobey Maguire, Elijah Wood and Katie Holmes (in her screen debut). Rated R.

BLOOD AND SAND (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): The Blu-ray debut ($24.99 retail) of Rouben Mamoulian’s 1941 adaptation of Vicente Blasco Ibanez’s novel starring Tyrone Power as a peasant who ascends to fame as Spain’s greatest matador. A star-studded cast includes Linda Darnell, Rita Hayworth, Anthony Quinn, J. Carrol Naish, John Carradine, Laird Cregar, Lynn Bari and George Reeves. Oscar winner for Best Cinematography (color), with an additional nomination for Best Art Direction/ Set Decoration (color).

BOBBY FISCHER AGAINST THE WORLD (Docurama Films/Cinedigm): One needn’t be a chess enthusiast to enjoy director Liz Garbus’ utterly absorbing, award-winning documentary feature tracing the enigmatic life of the eccentric and controversial chess master Bobby Fischer (1943-2008).

CHARGE (Docurama Films/Cinedigm): Ewan McGregor narrates this award-winning documentary ($29.95 retail) detailing the history of the first zero-emissions racing rally held on the Isle of Man beginning in 2009.

“FALLING SKIES”: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON (TNT/Warner Home Video): The battle to save humanity from an alien invasion continues in all 10 episodes from the 2012 season of the award-winning, TNT science-fiction series, which counts Steven Spielberg among its executive producers and earned an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Special Visual Effects. The ensemble cast includes Noah Wyle, Moon Bloodgood, Maxim Knight, Sarah Carter Drew Roy and reliable Will Patton. The DVD boxed set retails for $39.98, the Blu-ray boxed set for $49.99.

THE FRUIT HUNTERS (Cinedigm): Director Yung Chang’s award-winning documentary adaptation of Adam Leigh Gollner’s book looks as fruits the world over, the people who eat them (including actor Bill Pullman) and the efforts being made to save rare and exotic fruits in an increasingly industrialized society. The DVD retails for $29.95.

G-DOG (Docurama Films/Cinedigm): Freida Mock’s award-winning documentary ($29.95 retail) details the life and work of Los Angeles-based Jesuit priest and bestselling author Father Greg Boyle (“Father G”), who founded Homeboy Industries in the ’90s in an effort to help curb urban strife and give ex-gang members and ex-cons a fresh start.

HOUSE PARTY: TONIGHT’S THE NIGHT (Warner Home Video): You just can’t keep a good (or bad) franchise down, as this belated fifth entry in the hip-hop comedy series proves, with Tequan Richmond and Zac Goodspeed as the next generation of partying teens. The original Kid ‘n Play (Christopher Reid and Christopher Martin) appear in a jokey cameo at the fade-out. A fresh-faced cast can only do so much, and Winston-Salem’s own Rolonda Watts is embarrassing as a lusty neighbor. Filmed in Cape Town, South Africa. Rated R.

“HOW THE WEST WAS WON”: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (Warner Home Video): After a 20-year run on “Gunsmoke,” James Arness returned to television as 18 th century frontiersman Zeb Macahan in this ABC series based on the 1962 big-screen epic. This two-DVD collection ($19.98 retail) includes the feature-length pilot “The Macahans” and all 13 episodes (broadcast as a mini-series) from the inaugural 1978 season. Regulars include Eva Marie Saint, Bruce Boxleitner, Kathryn Holcomb and Fionnula Flanagan (Emmy nominee as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series), with guest appearances by Brian Keith, Mel Ferrer, Lloyd Bridges, Cameron Mitchell, Ed Lauter, Harris Yulin, Jared Martin, Tim Matheson and Ricardo Montalban who won the Emmy as Outstanding Single Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Comedy or Drama Series. A second Emmy win for Outstanding Achievement in Makeup.

KISS OF THE DAMNED (Magnet/Magnolia Home Entertainment): Disillusioned screenwriter Milo Ventimiglia is bewitched by alluring Josephine de la Baume — and he doesn’t even care that she’s a vampire. Writer/director Xan Cassavetes’ chiller is erotic, evocative and darkly romantic… in short, everything that the Twilight films should have been. Rated R.

LORD OF THE FLIES (The Criterion Collection): The Blu-ray bow ($39.99 retail) of director Peter Brook’s absorbing, award-winning 1963 adaptation of William Golding’s classic novel, in which a boys shipwrecked on an island devolve into savages. A tight ensemble cast includes James Aubrey, Tom Chapin, Hugh Edwards, Roger Elwin and Nicholas Hammond (later TV’s Spider-Man!) — many in their screen debuts and most in their only film. Special features includes audio commentary and retrospective documentaries.

THE MAN WHO SHOOK THE HAND OF VICENTE FERNANDEZ (Indican Pictures): In his final film, Ernest Borgnine gives an award-winning performance as a retired disc jockey who becomes an unlikely nursinghome hero when he takes on the corrupt owner (Barry Corbin) and sleazy doctor in charge (Tony Plana). The DVD retails for $24.99, the Blu-ray for $29.99.

TRANCE (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson and Vincent Cassel are swept up in larceny, amnesia, hypnosis and betrayal in director Danny Boyle’s award-winning, R-rated thriller, available on DVD ($22.98 retail) and Blu-ray $29.98 retail).

TWIXT (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Francis Ford Coppola’s R-rated shocker stars Val Kilmer as a novelist who encounters spooky doings as he tries to solve a murder. Bruce Dern, Elle Fanning, Ben Chaplin, David Paymer, Joanne Whalley and Don Novello (AKA “Father Guido Sarducci”) also star. The DVD retails for $22.98, Blu-ray retails for $29.99.

VENUS AND SERENA (Magnolia Home Entertainment): Vintage footage of their childhood highlights this documentary about legendary pro tennis players and siblings Venus and Serena Williams. A safe bet for tennis buffs. The DVD retails for $26.98, the Blu-ray for $29.98. Rated PG-13.

VIVAN LAS ANTIPODAS (Docurama Films/Cinedigm): Director/editor Victor Kossakovsky’s award-winning documentary visits places on Earth than are antipodes — located diametrically opposite each other — including Argentina and China, Botswana and Hawaii, and others. The DVD retails for $29.95.

“WILFRED”: SEASON TWO (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Elijah Wood is the man and Jason Gann is the dog (sort of), in all 13 episodes from the 2012 season of the award-winning FX Networks comedy series. Series creators Adam Zwar, Cindy Waddingham and Gann created the original Australian series, where Gann originated the role. The DVD boxed set retails for $29.98, the Blu-ray boxed set for $39.99.

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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