Video Vault

by Mark Burger

DVD Pick of the week: Kill the Irishman

(Anchor Bay Entertainment)

This true-crime saga, dramatizing the rise and fall of mobster Danny Greene, walks the walk and talks the talk — all of it tough, and well personified by Ray Stevenson as Greene.

Adapted from Rick Porello’s non-fiction best-seller To Kill the Irishman: The War That Crippled the Mafia by director Jonathan Hensleigh, the film depicts Greene’s war on the Cleveland underworld, a situation that grows increasingly embarrassing for the entrenched Italian mob as he repeatedly survives attempts on his life. (In movies like this, starting your car is tantamount to buying a life-insurance policy.)

Hensleigh’s direction reminiscent, something fawningly so, of Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas (1990), but at least he’s stealing from the best, and Stevenson is surrounded by an all-star cast for which the term “rogue’s gallery” might well have been coined: Vincent D’Onofrio (especially good as mobster John Nardi), Christopher Walken, Paul Sorvino, Tony Lo Bianco, Bob Gunton, Robert Davi, Vinnie Jones, Tony Darrow, Mike Starr, Marcus Thomas and Val Kilmer, the latter as a childhood friend of Danny’s-turned-cop, who narrates the film. Linda Cardellini plays Danny’s wife Joan, who (wisely) takes flight when their children are threatened.

In the end, Danny Greene’s war on the mob proved a costly one – for both sides. Even from beyond the grave, Danny would have his revenge. Rated R.

ALSO Available

ARTHUR (Warner Home Video): Executive producer Russell Brand steps into Dudley Moore’s shoes as the lovably boozy billionaire playboy in this needless remake of the 1981 comedy hit. What was so effervescent in the original seems forced here, despite a willing cast including Helen Mirren (as Hobson, Arthur’s nanny), Jennifer Garner, Nick Nolte, Luis Guzman and Greta Gerwig, as Arthur’s love interest… although they have little onscreen chemistry. This didn’t ring the box-office bell the second time around. Rated PG-13.

BB KING: LIVE (Image Entertainment): The title tells all in this concert documentary featuring the legendary, Grammy Awardwinning (over a dozen) guitar virtuoso, performing such hits as “The Thrill is Gone,” “Downhearted,” “I Got Some Help I Don’t Need,” “Key to the Highway” and many others. The DVD retails for $14.98, the Blu-ray for $17.97.

THE BABY (Severin Films): Director Ted Post’s extremely odd 1972 psycho-thriller with Ruth Roman as a mother raising two daughters (Marianna Hill and Suzanne Zenor) and a son (David Manzy), the latter as if he were still an infant — which arouses the increasingly obsessive interest of a social worker (Anjanette Comer) with issues of her own. The first half is clunky, but stick with it… if you dare! It’s safe to say you’ve not seen many movies like this one. Funny turn by Michael Pataki as lascivious party goer Dennis “the menace.” Rated PG (!).

“BRAVE NEW VOICES 2010” (HBO Home Entertainment): Rosario Dawson and Common host this documentary ($19.96 retail) showcasing the contestants of the Brave New Voices National Youth Poetry Slam Championships as they compete for the 2010 Grand Slam Finals.

“DAMAGES”: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Legal eagles Glenn Close and Rose Byrne are back on the case, in all 13 episodes from the 2010 season of the award-winning FX Network drama series that earned five Emmy nominations: Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series (Close), Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Byrne), Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (Martin Short), Outstanding Guest Actor in a Series (Ted Danson) and Outstanding Guest Actress in a Series (Lily Tomlin). This three-DVD boxed set retails for $45.99.

THE DEATH OF ANDY KAUFMAN (Wild Eye/MVD Visual): A remarkably ponderous documentary about the theory that comedian Andy Kaufman faked his own death. A fascinating topic that proves beyond the abilities of filmmaker Christopher Maloney, who wrote, produced, directed and narrates — and doesn’t distinguish himself in any capacity.

HALL PASS (Warner Home Video): Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis play best buds whose respective wives (Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate) gave them a week off in order to sow their wild oats. A one-joke concept is stretched extremely thin by the Farrelly Brothers, despite a fun turn by Richard Jenkins as a latter-day hep-cat. Rated R.

INSIDIOUS (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Director James Wan and screenwriter/co-star Leigh Whannell’s disappointing (but surprisingly popular) shocker stars Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne as a young couple plagued by supernatural doings. Rated PG-13.

MEGA-PYTHON VS. GATOROID (Image Entertainment): Eighties pop queens Debbie Gibson and Tiffany battle each other (including the obligatory catfight) as much as the title terrors in this intentionally campy monster mash featuring plenty of in-jokes and Micky Dolenz as himself. Dumb fun, with a surprise ending. Gibson and Tiffany were also coproducers and contribute songs to the reptilian revelry: “Snake Charmer” (Gibson) and “Serpentine” (Tiffany).

PUBLIC SPEAKING (HBO Home Entertainment): Martin Scorsese directs this documentary about best-selling author and public commentator Fran Leibowitz, who talks almost as rapidly as Scorsese does. Less a biography than an unvarnished showcase for Leibowitz, thus her admirers have a head start.

THE RESIDENT (Image Entertainment): A mechanical but well-made Hitchcockian thriller with Hilary Swank (also an executive producer) as a surgeon newly moved into a New York brownstone owned by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, whose interest in her turns pathological very quickly. Efficient and well-paced, with nice cinematography by Guillermo Navarrao, but the second half becomes pretty standard. Swank, Morgan and the always welcome Christopher Lee (as Morgan’s venerable grandfather) add class. Hard to believe a film starring a two-time Oscar winner (Swank) could barely muster a theatrical release, but such was the case here. Produced by the latest incarnation of Britain’s famous Hammer Films. Rated R.

TEENAGE PAPARAZZO (HBO Home Entertainment): Actor Adrian Grenier directs and narrates this engaging documentary profiling 14-year-old paparazzo Austin Visschedyk as he pursues the rich and famous in Hollywood. This examination of celebrity culture is refreshingly even-handed, and gets better, sharper and smarter as it progresses. Among the celebrities on hand: Alec Baldwin, Cameron Diaz, Britney Spears, Lewis Black and perennial paparazzi target Paris Hilton.

“THUNDERCATS: THE ORIGINAL SERIES”: SEASON 1, PART 1 (Warner Home Video): Coinciding with the premiere of the new Cartoon Network series, this two-DVD boxed set ($19.97 retail) includes the first 12 episodes from the premiere 1985 season of the original animated sci-fi series about an alien race of humanoid felines try to protect their home world of Thundera from threat.

“UFC 129: ST-PIERRE VS. SHIELDS” (Anchor Bay Entertainment): A special-edition DVD ($19.98 retail) featuring the Ultimate Fighting Championship match between welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre and challenger Jake Shields, held earlier this year in Toronto.

WHEN THEY WERE YOUNG (Image Entertainment): A sports documentary tracing the early days of such NBA superstars as Shaquille O’Neal, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Tim Ducan and others. The DVD retails for $14.98, the Blu-ray for $17.97.

Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2011, Mark Burger