by Mark Burger



THE DRESSER (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Remarkably, Anthony Hopkins and Ian McKellen had never before worked together until screenwriter/director Richard Eyre’s small-screen version of Ronald Harwood’s acclaimed stage drama, inspired by his own relationship with legendary Shakespearean actor Sir Donald Wolfit.

McKellen plays the title role of the ever-faithful Norman, the dresser for the venerable star called, simply, “Sir” (Hopkins). The troupe has been performing King Lear on a regional tour through England during World War II, with performances occasionally interrupted by air-raid sirens and bombs dropping nearby.

Hopkins and McKellen are an irresistible duo, their bantering and bickering seasoned with affection and indulgence, even as Sir descends into dementia. Unlike the 1983 screen version (well worth seeking out), Eyre keeps the action confined to the theater. If the histrionics seem a trifle florid, it comes with the territory, and if the actors occasionally chew the scenery, that’s what it’s there for.

A first-rate supporting cast includes Emily Watson (Sir’s long-suffering wife, “Her Ladyship”), Sarah Lancashire, Tom Brooke, Vanessa Kirby and the always-welcome Edward Fox (in a role different than the one he played in the ’83 film). Beautifully acted and often moving, this master class in acting is a valentine to Shakespeare and theater. ***½


AMATEUR NIGHT AT CITY HALL: THE STORY OF FRANK L. RIZZO (Mug-Shot Productions/MVD Entertainment): The DVD debut ($19.95 retail) of Robert Mugge’s award-winning 1978 documentary that examines the controversial career of Philadelphia police commissioner-turned-mayor Frank Rizzo (1920-’91), arguably one of the most polarizing politicians of his time. A nostalgic but trenchant look at the City of Brotherly Love during a pivotal time, with that distinctive and unmistakable Philly flavor. ***½

BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): Director Zack Snyder’s overblown but (sometimes) entertaining fantasy saga pits DC Comics’ titular superheroes, played respectively by Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill, against each other in a grand-scale grudge match orchestrated by one Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg). Affleck’s perfectly acceptable as The Dark Knight, but Cavill continues to struggle as the Man of Steel. Amy Adams (as Lois Lane), Gal Gadot (as Wonder Woman), Laurence Fishburne, Diane Lane, Holly Hunter, and reliable Jeremy Irons round out the cast. This divided audiences, fans and critics alike, but there’s no denying the special-effects wizardry. The “ultimate edition” is 30 minutes longer (!) and R-rated, available on DVD ($28.98 retail), DVD/Blu-ray combo ($35.99 retail), 3-D Blu-ray combo ($44.95 retail) and Ultra HD Blu-ray combo ($44.95 retail). Rated PG-13. **½

GIBBY (Shout! Kids Factory): Shelby Lion stars as a grief-stricken young gymnast who gains inspiration from an unlikely friendship with the title character, a mischievous Capuchin monkey (played by Crystal the Monkey, of Hangover Part II fame). Shannon Elizabeth, Vivica A. Fox, Sean Patrick Flanery and Peyton Meyer round out the (human) cast of this family-friendly comedy, available on DVD ($14.98 retail).

GRANTHAM & ROSE (Monarch Home Entertainment): Jake T. Austin (he’s Grantham) plays a juvenile delinquent and Marla Gibbs (she’s Rose) the octogenarian who spirits him away for a road trip to Atlanta, joined later by associate producer Tessa Thompson. Director Kristin Hanggi’s feature debut, scripted and produced by Ryan Spahn, is an obvious but agreeable comedy/drama in the Trip to Bountiful spirit. **

HUMPBACK WHALES (Shout! Factory): The title tells all in Greg MacGillivray’s IMAX documentary narrated by Ewan McGregor, available on Blu-ray ($19.99 retail) and 4K UHD/3-D Blu-ray/Blu-ray combo ($39.93 retail).

I, ANNA (Icarus Films Home Video): Director/screenwriter Barnaby Southcombe’s award-winning 2012 feature debut, based on Elsa Lewin’s novel about a burned-out detective (Gabriel Byrne) who begins a relationship with a possible murder suspect (Charlotte Rampling, Southcombe’s real-life mother) suffering from amnesia. A brooding, bluesy film-noir that’s a little too convoluted for its own good, despite a solid cast that includes Eddie Marsan, Jodhi May, Hayley Atwell, Ralph Brown and Honor Blackman. **½

LAST DAYS IN THE DESERT (Broad Green Pictures): Ewan McGregor plays Jesus (and Satan) in writer/director Rodrigo Garcia’s dramatization of the 40 days that Jesus spent in the desert fasting and praying. Respectful and earnest, but slow-moving and not nearly as compelling as Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ (1988). Rated PG-13. **

OUTATIME: SAVING THE DeLOREAN TIME MACHINE (Virgil Films): Editor Steve Concotelli makes his feature debut as writer/executive producer/director with this self-explanatory feature documentary about the efforts of Universal Studios, writer/producer Bob Gale and a worldwide legion of fans to restore the “DeLorean Time Machine” immortalized in the 1985 box-office smash Back to the Future, available on DVD and Blu-ray (each $19.98 retail).

OZLAND (Indie Rights/MVD Entertainment Group): Producer/cinematographer/production designer Michael Williams’ award-winning feature debut as writer/director stars Glenn Payne and Zack Ralkovich as wandering survivors of a post-apocalyptic landscape, the latter convinced that they’re following the same path as L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz. Low-key and talky, but this evocative award-winner displays enough originality to indicate bigger and better things are in store for its makers. A definite possibility for cult status. **½

“PAW PATROL: SPORTS DAY!(Nickelodeon/Paramount): A self-explanatory DVD selection ($14.99 retail) of six sports-related episodes from the award-winning animated Nickelodeon children’s series about courageous canines doing good.

PETER – THE REDEMPTION (Cinedigm): The title tells all in this faith-based Biblical drama starring John Rhys-Davies in the title role, struggling to keep his faith during the Christian persecution ordered by Stephen Baldwin’s Emperor Nero, available on DVD ($14.93 retail).

THE RETURN OF RUBEN BLADES (Mug-Shot Productions/MVD Entertainment Group): The Blu-ray bow ($19.95 retail) of Robert Mugge’s self-explanatory 1985 music documentary traces the life and career of actor/writer/humanitarian/political activist/Grammy Award-winning salsa superstar Ruben Blades, who enjoyed almost unprecedented crossover success in the US.

SSSSSSS (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): The Blu-ray bow ($27.99 retail) of the memorable 1973 chiller starring Strother Martin (in a rare lead) as a mad scientist and Dirk Benedict the lab assistant he begins experimenting on to turn him into a giant king cobra. Heather Menzies, Richard B. Shull, Tim O’Connor, Jack Ging and Reb Brown (in his screen debut) co-star in this silly but undeniably entertaining cult favorite, boasting excellent makeup effects. Special features include retrospective interviews, theatrical trailers, TV spots and more. Rated PG. ***

STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN (Paramount): A director’s-edition Blu-ray ($22.98 retail) of Nicholas Meyer’s terrific, award-winning 1982 sequel – which likely saved the big-screen franchise – pitting Admiral Kirk (William Shatner) and the crew of the Enterprise against “Space Seed” antagonist Ricardo Montalban (who deserved an Oscar nomination). The gang’s all here: Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Walter Koenig and Nichelle Nichols – with Paul Winfield, Bibi Besch, and newcomers Merritt Butrick and Kirstie Alley along for the adventure. This includes both the theatrical version and Meyer’s original version, which certainly would’ve impacted potential sequels, as well as special features including audio commentaries, vintage and retrospective interviews, and more. Rated PG. ***½

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