Video vault

by Mark Burger

DVD Pick of the week: Taking woodsTock (Universal studios Home entertainment)

Director Ang lee has fashioned a little epic with this engagingly flaky adaptation of the best-selling book by elliot Tiber with Tom Monte, detailing the goings-on that led to the legendary Woodstock rock concert in the summer of 1969.

Demetri Martin plays elliot Tiber, a town councilman in the Catskills who’s been helping his parents (Imelda staunton and Henry Goodman) run their motel. It’s elliot who first comes up with the idea of hosting the proposed concert, which had been rejected elsewhere, figuring it’ll be good for the local economy. It is, and it also becomes the defining moment for a generation — as well as for elliot, who’s attempting to come to terms with his sexual identity.

Taking Woodstock is nostalgic and funny (sometimes uproariously so), but it’s also perceptive and insightful, even touching at times. Martin hasn’t quite abandoned his stand-up comedy persona but is a genial protagonist. It becomes a running gag that elliot tries to see the concert several times, but is waylaid every time.

A splendid cast also includes liev schreiber, emile Hirsch, Dan Fogler, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, kelli Garner, Richard Thomas, Paul Dano, Mamie Gummer (Meryl streep’s real-life daughter) and the invaluable eugene levy as Max Yasgur, the farmer upon who rented out his property for the concert. Rated R.

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BILLY OWENS AND THE SECRET OF THE RUNES (MTI Home Video): The second in a series of low-budget Harry Potter knockoffs reunites Dalton Mugridge (in the title role) with Ciara O’Hanlon, Christopher Fazio and Roddy Piper (as a magical mentor!). Adequate fare for kids.

BLACKBALLED: THE BOBBY DUKES STORY (shout! Factory): Rob Corddry headlines this award-winning farce, a mockumentary detailing the comeback of a one-time paintball legend who was banned for 10 years for cheating. Improvisational irreverence with a comedyfriendly cast including Paul scheer, Dannah Feinglass, Rob Huebel, ed Helms, Rob Riggle, DJ Hazard, Curtis Gwinn and seth Morris.

THE BOOK OF ELI (Warner Home Video): It’s Denzel Washington (mysterious drifter) vs. Gary Oldman (resident megalomaniac) in this dusty post-apocalyptic action fantasy from the Hughes Brothers. Well made but not particularly well written, including a not-unexpected twist ending. Washington and Oldman are coasting but not bad. Rated R.

“CARTOON NETWORK HALL OF FAME: JOHNNY BRAVO”: SEASON ONE (Warner Home Video): The first in an upcoming series of Cartoon Network favorites is a two-DVD boxed set ($24.98 retail) containing all 13 episodes from the premiere 1997 season of the animated comedy series depicting the misadventures of the title character (voiced by Jeff Bennett), a dim-witted, narcissistic, karate-chopping mama’s boy (inspired by no less than elvis Presley) who somehow manages to save the day on a regular basis. Bonus features include a retrospective documentary and audio commentaries.

DEATH RACE 2000 (shout! Factory): Director Paul Bartel’s 1975 drive-in cult classic, now available on special-edition DVD ($19.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($26.97 retail), depicts a totalitarian future where the national sport is a cross-country road race in which contestants rack up points by plowing into pedestrians. David Carradine (as Frankenstein) and the hilarious sylvester stallone (as Machine Gun Joe Viterbo) head a zesty cast that includes Mary Woronov, simone Griffeth, Martin kove, louisa Moritz, Roberta Collins, “The Real” Don steele, Joyce Jameson and a pre-”love Boat” (and pre-political career) Fred Grandy. look fast for Bartel as Frankenstein’s doctor. Fast-paced fun with a savagely satirical bent. Rated R.

“EUREKA”: SEASON 3.5 (Universal studios Home entertainment): Weird and wacky sci-fi shenanigans are an everyday occurrence in the title town, located in the American Northwest and inhabited by some of the best brains on earth, in the second nine episodes from the 2008-’09 season (a season interrupted by the writer’s strike in Hollywood) of the award-winning syFy Channel series. The regular cast includes Colin Ferguson, salli Richardson-Whitfield, Jordan Hinson, Jaime Ray Newman and reliable Joe Morton. This boxed set retails for $29.98.

FIGHTING (Universal studios Home entertainment): Channing Tatum, a street hustler from the south, finds success in New York City’s underground fight circuit, in this well-made but formulaic melodrama that is overstuffed with (unnecessary) dialogue, humorless and too often dependent on clich’s. Terrence Howard (manager) and luis Guzman (promoter) are adequate in stock roles. Rated PG-13 (also available in an unrated version).

THE PHANTOM OF LIBERTY (The Criterion Collection): A special-edition DVD ($29.95 retail) of luis Bunuel’s acclaimed, award-winning 1974 absurdist satire (originally titled Le Fantome de la liberte) is a series of surreal vignettes that mocks such sacred cows as society, morality, politics and religion. An international all-star cast, playing dual roles, includes Monica Vitti, Jean-Claude Brialy, Michel Piccoli, Jean Rochefort and Michel lonsdale. In French with english subtitles. Rated R.

THE SHADOW WITHIN (MTI Home Video): A dull, spotty chiller set in World War II-era France, with laurence Belcher as a young boy haunted by the spirit of his dead twin brother while a diphtheria epidemic rocks his village. Hayley J. Williams plays the boy’s troubled mom and Beth Winslet (kate’s sister) the village physician. A snoozer, not a sleeper. Rated R.

SHE’S OUT OF MY LEAGUE (Paramount Home entertainment): Jay Baruchel plays an average guy who falls in love with knockout Alice eve, at which point the trouble begins. This patented combination of raunch and romantic comedy gets a lot of mileage out of its likable cast, which also includes TJ Miller, krysten Ritter, lindsay sloane and Mike Vogel. Rated R.

SHORTS (Warner Home Video): Corporate satire, comic-book silliness and children’s adventures are mashed together in this slapstick fantasy from writer/producer/co-editor/ cinematographer/composer/director Robert Rodriguez. some inventive touches are trampled underneath the barrage of special effects, along with such talented players as James spader, William H. Macy, Jon Cryer, leslie Mann and kat Dennings. Rated PG.

SISTER’S KEEPER (MTI Home Video): Writer/ producer/director kent Faulcon stars as a hitman who has second thoughts about his vocation when he is assigned to kill a young schoolteacher (Denise Boutte), who promptly mistakes him for her long-lost brother. This indecisive combination of domestic drama (with incongruous comedic moments) and standard-issue shoot-’em-up has a few nice touches but is hampered by languid pacing. eric Roberts is cast to type as Faulcon’s sinister boss. Rated R.

TOOTH FAIRY (Twentieth Century Fox Home entertainment): Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, as a hockey star with a penchant for knocking opponents’ teeth out (hence his character’s nickname and the film’s title), is recruited to become the “actual” Tooth Fairy in this slim, toothless (sorry, couldn’t resist), effects-laden comedy that plays like leftovers from the Santa Clause movies — little wonder since director Michael lembeck directed two of those. six (!) screenwriters are credited, although discredit is warranted. Julie Andrews, Ashley Judd and an unbilled (lucky him) Billy Crystal are wasted in support. Rated PG.

UGETSU (The Criterion Collection): A two- DVD special edition ($39.95 retail) of kenji Mizoguchi’s critically acclaimed, awardwinning 1953 ghost story (also known as Ugetsu monogotari and released in the Us as Tales of Ugetsu) set in 16 th -century Japan. Machiko kyo, Masayuki Mori, kinuyo Tanaka and sakae Ozawa head the cast. Academy Award nomination for Best Costume Design (black-and-white). special features include documentaries, vintage interviews and an audio commentary. In Japanese with english subtitles.

Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2010, Mark Burger