by Mark Burger



This self-explanatory, B-movie send-up succeeds as both a clever comedy and an instant cult classic.The titular menace is the result of (surprise, surprise) military experiments gone wrong, and very quickly this eight-legged freak is at large, getting larger, meaner, hungrier and harder to kill.To stop a Big Ass Spider, you need a Wise Ass Hero. Enter Greg Grunberg (also co-producer), in a winning performance as our glib hero, Everyman exterminator Alex Mathis. Paired with Jose (Lombardo Boyar), a hip Latino security guard, Alex’s warnings about the monstrous menace are continually ignored — yet he’s almost always right.Even the might of the local militia, led by Maj. Braxton C. Tanner (Ray Wise) and Lt. Karly Brandt (Clare Kramer), can’t stop the rampaging arachnid as it devours the populace and demolishes some familiar Los Angeles landmarks.Director Mike Mendez and writer Gregory Gieras evince a genuine affection for horror and sci-fi trappings, spoofing them in fast, funny fashion. For all the laughs, there are a couple of good jolts, too. Rated PG-13.(For an exclusive interview with Greg Grunberg, turn to page 33.)

ANGEL OF THE SKIES (Entertainment One): Nicholas van der Bijl plays a South African pilot trapped behind enemy lines in writer/director/editor Christopher-Lee Dos Santos’ hoary, bland World War II melodrama.

BLIND DATE (Image Entertainment): The Blu-ray bow ($17.97 retail) of Blake Edwards’ thin 1987 farce with Bruce Willis (in his first big-screen lead) and Kim Basinger as the couple in question. John Larroquette steals the film — what there is of it — as Basinger’s demented ex-boyfriend. Willis reunited with Edwards the next year for Sunset, which makes this film look like a masterpiece. Rated PG-13.

“CHINA BEACH”: THE COMPLETE SEASON TWO (Time Life/Star Vista Entertainment): A five-DVD collection ($29.95 retail) of all 17 episodes from the 1988-’89 season of the acclaimed ABC series about those who served in the Vietnam War. Dana Delany won the Emmy Award as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, with five additional Emmy nominations including Outstanding Drama Series and Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series (Chloe Webb).

DEVIL’S PASS (IFC Midnight/MPI Media Group): Renny Harlin revisits Cliffhanger territory with this occasionally effective “found-footage” chiller (literally), as documentary filmmakers (including Holly Goss, Matt Stokoe and Gemma Atkinson) retrace the steps of an ill-fated climbing expedition in the Ural Mountains and soon wish they hadn’t. The “Big Reveal” is silly but at least it’s different. Originally titled The Dyatlov Pass Incident. Rated R.

DIRTY WARS (IFC Films): Noted war correspondent Jeremy Scahill, author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Mercenary Army, narrates this award-winning  documentary ($24.98 retail) that follows his exploration of the ongoing history of the top-secret Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).

DON JON (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): A triumph for Joseph Gordon-Levitt, making his debut as writer/ director of this offbeat but highly entertaining, award-winning romantic comedy in which he plays a smooth-talking ladies’ man whose latest conquest (Scarlett Johansson) disapproves of his predilection for online porn. A fine cast includes Glenne Headly and Tony Danza as Jon’s parents, Brie Larson as his text-happy sister, and especially Julianne Moore as a lonely night-school classmate. Great New Jersey send-up, too. Rated R.

FRAT BROTHERS (One Village Entertainment): Richard John Reliford and Mishon Ratliff play brothers who decision to pledge different college fraternities causes problems on and off campus. The DVD retails for $14.98.

“GOLDEN AGE OF TELEVISION: VOLUME 13” (Alpha Home Entertainment): A DVD compilation ($7.98 retail) of four hour-long TV dramas from the ’50s, featuring Hollywood favorites David Niven, Dick Powell, Charles Boyer and Frank Lovejoy.

HOMECOMING (One Village Entertainment): In the tradition of The Big Chill, executive producer Eugene Ashe wrote and directed this drama (originally an off-Broadway play) about college friends reunited when one dies. The ensemble cast includes Duane Allen Robinson, Nina Ashe, Sheldon Shaw and Jerry Ford, and the DVD retails for $14.98.

IN SICKNESS AND IN HEALTH/TO LOVE AND TO CHERISH (One Village Entertainment): A DVD double-feature ($14.98 retail) of filmed plays, the first featuring Jennifer Freeman and Golden Brooks, the second with Mel Jackson and Denise Boutte, and both written by Cas Sigers-Beedles and directed by Roger Melvin.

“JFK ASSASSINATION: THE DEFINI- TIVE GUIDE” (LionsGate): Despite the title, this interesting, occasionally persuasive, self-explanatory History Channel documentary is basically an advertisement for its public-opinion poll. Narrated by Jonathan Adams.

LINSANITY (Ketchup Entertainment): Daniel Dae Kim narrates this PG-rated sports documentary ($20.99 retail) that follows the life and career of NBA phenomenon Jeremy Lin.

LOVE SICK LOVE (Monarch Home Entertainment): Womanizer Matthew Settle (who co-produced) gets his comeuppance at the hands of his deranged girlfriend (Katia Winter) — with a little help from her addle-brained grandparents (M. Emmet Walsh and Charlotte Rae) and her precocious kids (Dean Kapica and Lindsay Binder) — in this uneven but well-acted black comedy. Rated R.

MANBORG (Dark Sky Films/MPI Media Group): The Astron-6 comedy troupe strikes again with this goofy but fastmoving sci-fi/video-game send-up with Matthew Kennedy as a futuristic soldier killed in action but resurrected as a cyborg. Producer/director/editor/co-writer Steven Kostanski also handled the makeup and animation effects. Only 60 minutes long so nary a wasted moment.

ON THE ROAD (IFC Films): Walter Salles directed this well-intentioned but unsuccessful adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s 1957 novel, with Sam Riley as the young writer who embarks on a cross-country journey across post-World War II America. The cast includes Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart, Kirsten Dunst, Amy Adams, Viggo Mortensen, Alice Braga, Elisabeth Moss and unbilled appearances by Terrence Howard and Steve Buscemi. Francis Ford Coppola, who bought the rights to the book almost 35 years ago, was an executive producer. Rated R.

PLEASE KILL MR. KNOW IT ALL (Monarch Home Entertainment): Screenwriter Sandra Feldman and Colin Carter co-directed this award-winning, mild romantic comedy with Lara Jean Chorostecki as an advice columnist who falls for hit-man Jefferson Brown, whose likeness she unwittingly appropriated for her column. Bright wrap-up.

“SATANIC DOUBLE FEATURE” (Alpha Home Entertainment): A self-explanatory DVD twin-bill ($7.98 retail) of ’70s Euroshockers: The Devil’s Wedding Night (1973) starring Mark Damon (in a dual role), and Witches’ Mountain (1973).

VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): The Blu-ray bow ($24.99 retail) of Irwin Allen’s enjoyable 1961 sci-fi hokum detailing the adventures of the nuclear submarine Seaview on a mission to save the world. The obligatory all-cast includes Walter Pidgeon, Joan Fontaine, Peter Lorre, Robert Sterling, Barbara Eden and then-husband Michael Ansara, and Frankie Avalon, who croons the title tune. Naturally, a saboteur’s on-board and a gi- ant squid attacks. This of course spawned the TV series. Rated PG. !

MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2014, Mark Burger.