by Mark Burger



THE COBBLER (RLJ Entertainment/Image Entertainment): Before scoring his first Oscar nomination for Spotlight, director Tom McCarthy helmed this bittersweet fantasy that didn’t get the attention it deserved – particularly for Adam Sandler, giving one of his best performances. (You read that right.)

Sandler plays Max Simkin, a lonely New York cobbler who discovers a family heirloom that allows him to literally step into the shoes of another person – taking on his or her appearance. The concept is understandably rife with comedic possibilities, but also incorporates drama, irony and whimsy into the mix without seeming forced.

A fine cast includes Steve Buscemi, Dustin Hoffman, Ellen Barkin, Clifford “Method Man” Smith, Melonie Diaz, Dan Stevens, Fritz Weaver, Yul Vazquez and Lynn Cohen, the latter particularly good as Max’s ailing mother, but it’s Sandler’s low-key, effective performance that holds it all together. The DVD retails for $29.96, the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $34.97.Rated PG-13. ***


ARMY DOG (LionsGate): Casper Van Dien and real-life daughter Grace star in this family-friendly, PG-rated, canine-related comedy/adventure about a war hero trying to reconnect with his rebellious daughter, available on DVD ($19.98 retail)

A BRAVE HEART: THE LIZZIE VELASQUEZ STORY (Cinedigm): First-time producer/director Sara Hirsh Bordo’s award-winning documentary is a profile in courage of Lizzie Velasquez (also an executive producer), who was born with a rare condition that prevents her from gaining weight and who became a tireless anti-bullying advocate after viewing a Youtube video calling her “The World’s Ugliest Woman.” It is impossible not to be moved by Velasquez’s story, and her personality shines through every frame. Rated PG-13. ***

DANGEROUS CHARTER (Alpha Home Entertainment): First-time producer/director/story writer Robert Gottschalk’s boring smuggling melodrama was filmed in 1958 as a showcase for Panavision (which he developed), but by its 1962 release, the process was standard. So’s this. *

“DARK FILM MYSTERIES” (Film Chest Media Group): A three-DVD collection ($19.98 retail) of 11 vintage film-noir thrillers including such classics as Scarlet Street and Detour (1945), The Strange Love of Martha Ivers and The Stranger (1946), Kansas City Confidential (1952) and more.

EMPTYING THE SKIES (Music Box Films Home Entertainment): Based on Jonathan Franzen’s New Yorker article, this award-winning documentary exposes illegal poaching of migratory songbirds throughout southern Europe – then focuses on those who oppose the poachers. The DVD retails for $29.95.

FATAL INSTINCT (Olive Films): The Blu-ray bow ($29.95 retail) of Carl Reiner’s scattershot 1993 film-noir send-up, with Armand Assante as hard-boiled hero cop/lawyer) surrounded by femme fatales Sean Young, Sherilyn Fenn and Kate Nelligan, plus Tony Randall (as “Judge Skanky”!), Christopher McDonald, Clarence Clemons, James Remar, John Witherspoon, Eartha Kitt and Reiner. A box-office misfire that found fans in endless cable showings. Rated PG-13. **

“FORD STERLING IN THE SOUND ERA” (Alpha Home Entertainment): A DVD collection ($7.98 retail) of four comedy shorts showcasing the popular silent-era comedian Ford Sterling (1883-1939) as transitioned to talkies: Trouble from Abroad and Coe to Papa (both 1931), A Returned Engagement (1935) and Many Unhappy Returns (1937), the latter marking his final screen appearance.

FULL OF GRACE (Cinedigm): Writer/director Andrew Hyatt’s award-winning faith-based drama depicts the last days of the Virgin Mary (Bahia Haifi in her feature debut), available on DVD ($14.93 retail).

GOLDEN SHOES (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Youngster Christian Koza dreams of being a soccer star in this family-friendly sports drama with Dina Meyer, Eric Roberts, Vivica A. Fox, John Rhys-Davies, David DeLuise and Montel Williams, available on DVD ($19.98 retail).

“HEROES DEL NORTE 3” (Cinedigm): A three-DVD collection ($19.97 retail) of all 16 episodes from the 2013 season of the popular Televisa comedy series following the misadventures of a country music band from Mexico. In Spanish with English subtitles.

HUEVOS: LITTLE ROOSTER’S EGG-CELLENT ADVENTURE (LionsGate): Jon Heder, Amber Montana, Alyston Stoner and Jason Mewes lend their voices to the English-language version of the PG-13-rated animated comedy Un Gallo con Muchos Huevos. The DVD ($19.98 retail) also includes the full Spanish-language version.

“LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE”: SEASON EIGHT (LionsGate): A DVD collection ($21.98 retail) of all 22 episodes from the 1981-’82 season of the long-running, award-winning NBC drama series based on the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder (played by Melissa Gilbert). Emmy winner for Outstanding Achievement in Music Composition for a Series, Emmy nominee for Outstanding Cinematography for a Series.

LOVE FINDS YOU IN CHARM (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Danielle Chuchran stars in this made-for-TV adaptation of Annalisa Daughety’s novel as an Amish teenager whose horizons – both social and romantic – are broadened when she visits her cousin in the bucolic Ohio burg of Charm. The DVD retails for $22.98.

MADHOUSE (Olive Films): The Blu-ray bow ($29.95 retail) of a predictable, forgettable 1990 farce with sitcom vets Kirstie Alley and John Larroquette as Yuppies whose house is overrun with unwanted guests. Flops like this did nothing to help ailing Orion Pictures’ fortunes in the ’90s. The DVD retails for $14.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. Rated PG-13. *

MANNEQUIN (Olive Films): The Blu-ray bow ($29.95 retail) of the abysmal 1987 comedy starring Andrew McCarthy as a lonely department-store artist (?) who manages, with a little magic, to bring his dream mannequin (the ever-fetching Kim Cattrall) to life. This may be the worst film ever shot in this writer’s hometown of Philadelphia – yet it was a hit and earned an Oscar nomination (!) for Starship’s chart-topper “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now.” The 1991 sequel Mannequin Two on the Move is also on Blu-ray ($29.95 retail). Rated PG-13. Zero stars

NED KELLY (Olive Films): Mick Jagger plays the legendary 19th-century Australian outlaw in Tony Richardson’s gritty but plodding crime drama, featuring music by Shel Silverstein and songs by Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson. If you’ve ever wondered why Jagger didn’t have a bigger acting career — The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. Rated PG. **

PLAYTHINGS OF DESIRE (Alpha Home Entertainment): A provocatively titled but tepid 1934 adaptation of a J. Wesley Putnam novel, with Linda Watkins as a glamorous movie star whose betrothal to hard-drinking playboy James Kirkwood turns tragic when he is murdered on the eve of their wedding. The murder occurs 10 minutes before the end, so this isn’t much of a whodunit, although there is Watkins’ memorable line: “Marriage is cause for heavy drinking.” *½

“POWER TANGERS DINO CHARGE: UNLEASHED(LionsGate): A DVD selection ($14.98 retail) of four episodes from the popular sci-fi adventure series, broadcast on Nickelodeon, marking the latest off-shoot of the “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.”

ROBO-DOG (RLJ Entertainment): Olivia d’Abo, Patrick Muldoon and Wallace Shawn head the human contingent in this family-friendly sci-fi comedy about a computerized canine, now available on DVD ($27.97 retail).

“ROCK ‘N’ ROLL REVUE/RHYTHM & BLUES REVUE” (Film Chest Media Group): A self-explanatory DVD ($19.98 retail) of two variety shows recorded in 1955 at the Apollo Theatre, boasting an all-star line-up including Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole, Sarah Vaughan, Cab Calloway, Count Basie and others – plus the 1956 feature Rock, Rock, Rock featuring Alan Freed, Chuck Berry, Frankie Lymon, The Flamingos, and Tuesday Weld (in her screen debut).

ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD (RLJ Entertainment): Gary Oldman and Tim Roth delightfully portray the title twosome in writer/first-time director Tom Stoppard’s award-winning, slightly overlong 1990 Shakespearean send-up based on Stoppard’s play, with Richard Dreyfuss as “The Player.” The DVD retails for $24.98, the Blu-ray for $29.98. Rated PG. ***

SEA DEVILS (Alpha Home Entertainment): Pedestrian 1931 programmer involving wrongly accused murderer Edmund Burns stowing away aboard a ship where he woos captain’s daughter Molly O’Day and discovers that first mate Walter Long is the actual killer. *½

STOLEN SWEETS (Alpha Home Entertainment): Romantic comedy and soap opera make uneasy bedfellows in veteran Hollywood workhorse Richard Thorpe’s creaky 1934 outing, with heiress Sally Blane swept off her feet on a cruise by Charles Starrett – much to the dismay of her imperious father (Jameson Thomas). **

THIS AIN’T NO MOUSE MUSIC! (Kino Lorber): Maureen Gosling and Chris Simon’s award-winning documentary follows Chris Strachwitz, a German aristocrat who fled during World War II and founded Arhoolie Records, an independent label that showcases roots music from the United States and around the world. The DVD retails for $24.95.

THRASHIN’ (Olive Films): Director David Winters’ PG-13-rated 1986 skateboarding melodrama marked early lead roles for Josh Brolin and Sherilyn Fenn, and featured appearances by real-life skaters Tony Alva, Tony Hawk and Steve Caballero, plus Red Hot Chili Peppers performing in a barroom scene. The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95.

THE TRESPASSER (Alpha Home Entertainment): A terrific Gloria Swanson earned an Oscar nomination as Best Actress for her first talkie, writer/director Edmund Goulding’s 1929 tearjerker about a single woman trying to raise her son after her marriage is annulled. Swanson and then-paramour Joseph Kennedy also produced. ***

UNDER THE RED SEA (Alpha Home Entertainment): Les Tremayne narrates this 1951 documentary following famed diver and marine biologist Hans Hass as he explores the wonders beneath the waves. The DVD retails for $7.98.

VALLEY INN (Monarch Home Entertainment): College student Jordan Scott (in her screen debut) learns the appreciate the quaint charms of eccentricities of small-town life in this comedy, available on DVD ($24.95 retail).

“WILD SAFARI DOUBLE FEATURE” (Alpha Home Entertainment): A self-explanatory DVD twin-bill ($7.98 retail) including a pair of wildlife documentaries: Harry Schenck directs and stars in 1934’s Beyond Bengal, and Wilfred Lucas narrates 1935’s Forbidden Adventure (A.K.A. Angkor).

“THE WONDER YEARS”: THE COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON (StarVista Entertainment/Time Life): A four-DVD collection ($39.95 retail) of all 23 episodes from the 1990-’91 season of the beloved ABC sitcom starring Fred Savage as Kevin Arnold, an all-American boy growing up in late ’60s/early ’70s suburbia, with Daniel Stern providing offscreen narration as adult Kevin. Three Emmy nominations including Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding Directing in a Comedy Series.

(Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2016, Mark Burger) HYPERLINK “”