DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: BIG GAME (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
Writer/director Jalmari Helander’s high-concept adventure stars Onni Tommila as Oskari, a youngster embarking on a rite of passage by going alone in the Finnish mountains to hunt deer with only a bow and arrow.
Instead, he witnesses a catastrophic plane crash. It’s not just any plane – it’s Air Force One. He soon encounters one of two survivors, William Alan (Samuel L. Jackson) – the President of the United States. Unfortunately, they also encounter the other survivor, Morris (Ray Stevenson), the turncoat Secret Service agent who engineered the sabotage and is in pursuit with his terrorist cronies.
Back at the Pentagon, Victor Garber (Vice-President), Felicity Huffman (CIA director), Jim Broadbent (CIA analyst) and Ted Levine (hard-nosed general) wait and worry while Alan and Oskari try to remain one step ahead of their antagonists.
No matter how far-fetched, and sometimes because, Big Game never loses its sense of fun. The comparisons to Cliffhanger (1993), Air Force One (1997) and Olympus Has Fallen (2013) are obvious, but there’s also a playful Steven Spielberg/Boy’s Life vibe to the proceedings, neatly put across in a brisk 82-minute running time.
Anchored by Jackson and Tommila’s engaging teamwork, Big Game is pure popcorn fare that delivers the action while remaining (comfortably) within a PG-13 rating. Just as Jackson is about to deliver a signature line, Helander cuts away – both retaining the rating and providing a sly inside joke.
“2 BROKE GIRLS”: THE COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs serve up the laughs in all 22 episodes from the 2014-’15 season of the award-winning CBS situation comedy, available on DVD ($24.98 retail).
“20 BACK-TO-SCHOOL TALES – SCHOLASTIC STORYBOOK TREA- SURES: THE CLASSIC COLLECTION” (Scholastic/Cinedigm): A self-explanatory DVD compilation ($5.97 retail) of such popular animated stories as Splat the Cat, Wheels on the Bus, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Crazy Hair Day and others.
“THE DIRTY DOZEN DOUBLE FEATURE” (Olive Films): Some 20 years after the box-office smash, NBC revisited the theme in a pair of World War II TV movies – Dirty Dozen: The Deadly Mission (1987) and Dirty Dozen: The Fatal Mission (1988), both directed by Lee H. Katzin, with Telly Savalas (whose character perished in the original) taking charge and Ernest Borgnine back as Gen. Worden. The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $39.95.
THE DOG WHO SAVED SUMMER (Anchor Bay Entertainment): The sixth in the popular, PG-rated family franchise, again directed by Sean Robert Olson, with Dean Cain, Elisa Donovan, Patrick Muldoon, Joey “Coco” Diaz, Martin Kove, James Hong and Mario Lopez, providing the voice of courageous canine Zeus. The DVD retails for $19.98.
THE FACTS OF LIFE (Olive Films): Cupid’s arrow unexpectedly strikes Bob Hope and Lucille Ball, as longtime friends who end up on vacation in Acapulco without their spouses, in this 1960 romantic comedy that earned Oscar nominations for Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography (black and white), Best Song (the title tune), Best Art Direction/Set Decoration (black and white) and a win for Edith Head’s Costume Design (black and white). The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95.
HACKERS (Shout! Factory): A specialedition (!) Blu-ray ($24.97 retail) of director/executive producer Iain Softley’s dim-witted, empty-headed 1995 “cyberpunk” thriller, notable only for giving an early lead to Angelina Jolie, who later married leading man Jonny Lee Miller. (This was pre-Billy Bob and pre-Brad, of course.) Lorraine Bracco and Fisher Stevens ham it up mercilessly as the baddies. Yours truly selected this as his worst film of 1995. Rated PG-13.
I AM BIG BIRD: THE CAROLL SPIN- NEY STORY (Tribeca Film/Cinedigm): This award-winning, warm-hearted documentary explores the life and career of the title puppeteer, the long-time Jim Henson collaborator who created the roles of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch on “Sesame Street,” which he continues to perform even in his 80s.
“KABOUL KITCHEN”: SEASON ONE (MHz Networks): A three-DVD collection ($39.95 retail) of all 12 episodes from the inaugural 2012 season of the award-winning, French-language comedy series starring Gilbert Melki as an expatriate Frenchman running a restaurant in Afghanistan in 2005 whose life is upended when his estranged daughter (Stephanie Pasterkamp), now a humanitarian worker, unexpectedly re-enters his life.
LITTLE LOOPERS (Cinedigm): Think “Bad News Bears on the Links,” as disgraced former golfer (producer/ screenwriter Boyd Kestner) is charged with coaching a group of rebellious kids in this family-friendly comedy co-starring Rob Morrow, Mark Moses and Natalie Imbruglia. The DVD retails for $14.93.
“THE MAGIC SCHOOL BUS”: SEASON TWO (Scholastic/Cinedigm): The title tells all in this two-DVD collection ($19.97 retail) of all 13 episodes from the 1995 season of the award-winning, animated series based on the best-selling books by Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen.
“MAMA’S FAMILY: MAMA’S FA- VORITES”: SEASON SIX (Time Life): A self-explanatory DVD compilation ($12.95 retail) of six episodes personally selected by star Vicki Lawrence from the 1989-’90 season of the Emmy-winning sitcom.
ROBOT JOX (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): A special-edition Blu-ray ($24.97 retail) of Stuart Gordon’s entertaining 1990 sci-fi thriller set in a future where nations wage war via giant robots. (Think “Rock-’Em Sock-’Em Robots” on a grand scale.) This was among the last films produced by executive producer Charles Band’s Empire Pictures, acquired by Trans World Entertainment (which folded) and then distributed by Triumph (which soon folded). David Allen’s visual effects and constant cable airplay earned it cult status. Rated PG-13.
“STRIKE BACK”: CINEMAX, SEASON 3 (HBO): Sullivan Stapleton (American) and Philip Winchester (British) continue their efforts to seek and destroy terrorists around the globe, in all 10 episodes from the 2013 season of the award-winning Cinemax series, available on DVD ($29.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($39.98 retail) – both replete with special features.
“SURVIVOR’S REMORSE”: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (Anchor Bay Entertainment): NBA superstar LeBron James is a creator/executive producer of this STARZ Original comedy series starring Jessie T. Usher as a young basketball phenom who moves his family to Atlanta when he signs a professional contract. All six episodes from the inaugural 2014 season are now available on DVD ($24.98 retail).
“TE ENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: RETREAT” (Nickelodeon/Paramount): The “heroes on a half-shell” are back, in seven episodes from the 2014 season of the award-winning fantasy/ adventure Nickelodeon series featuring the voices of Sean Astin, Greg Cipes, Rob Paulsen, Seth Green, Hoon Lee and Mae Whitman. The DVD retails for $14.99. Nickelodeon/Paramount have also released the DVD collections The Search for Splinter, NYC Showdown and Pulverizer Power, each retailing for $9.99, as well as “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Return to NYC, which retails for $14.99.
WILD THING (Olive Films): John Sayles penned this off-kilter (and off-putting) urban fable starring Rob Knepper as a feral youth who battles the forces of evil in a large city, attracting the attentions of concerned social worker Kathleen Quinlan, murderous drug dealer Robert Davi, and corrupt cop Maury Chaykin. A few points of interest but otherwise a misfire. The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. Rated PG-13.
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2015, Mark Burger.