Aug. 12, 2009 12:00

video vault

DVD PICK OF THE WEEK GREY GARDENS

(HBO Home Entertainment): The true story of socialite Edith “Big Edie” Bouvier Beale (Jessica Lange) and her daughter “Little Edie” (Drew Barrymore), so vividly captured on film in the acclaimed 1975 documentary Grey Gardens, is dramatized here in this sad, sorrowful saga of wealth gone to waste.

Once the cream of society, the two Edies end up barely eking out a desolate existence in the family’s summer home in Easthampton, NY, ruminating on past hopes and dreams while the mansion decays around them. The film, directed by Michael Sucsy, affords both actresses ample opportunity to tear into their roles — and they don’t disappoint. This is a fascinating tale, well-told and well-acted by all concerned… and it just happens to be true, which lends a further poignancy to the proceedings.

The film reaped four Emmy nominations: Barrymore and Lange as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie, Ken Howard (playing Phelan Beale) as Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie, and Jeanne Tripplehorn (playing Big Edie’s cousin, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis) as Outstanding Supporting Actress in a MiniSeries or Movie. ***

ALSO ON

DVD 13 MOONS (Monarch Home Video): Full-moon madness for an all-star ensemble in writer/director Alexandre Rockwell’s comedy/drama set on the night of the 13th full moon. A few moments stand out, but not nearly enough of them. The cast tries hard: Steve Buscemi, Peter Dinklage, Peter Stormare, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Jennifer Beals (Rockwell’s real-life ex-wife), Karyn Parsons (Rockwell’s real-life current wife), Sam Rockwell (no relation), David Proval, Danny Trejo, Gareth Williams and the late Eddie Bunker. Rated R. *½

“THE ALZHEIMER’S PROJECT” (HBO Home Entertainment): Maria Shriver hosts this comprehensive, four-part documentary series that explores the strides in medical research in dealing with one of the most feared (and incurable) illnesses in the world today — a disease that has undoubtedly had an impact on almost everyone’s life. Shriver’s own father, noted politician Sargent Shriver, is himself an Alzheimer’s sufferer. This three-disc boxed set retails for $24.98.

ANGEL OF DEATH (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Noted comic-book author Ed Brubaker created and wrote this predictable action vehicle for stuntwomanturned-cult-star Zoe Bell, originally broadcast on Crackle.com, about a cunning assassin who undergoes a change of heart being stabbed in the head (don’t ask) and strikes back against her own employers. Bell cuts a striking figure, but this plays like a failed pilot for a series in the “La Femme Nikita” mold. *½

DOOR INTO SILENCE (Severin Films): The final feature film of screenwriter/director Lucio Fulci, this 1991 psychological thriller stars John Savage as an attorney who gets lost driving through the Louisiana swamps and encounters the supernatural… or does he? Surprisingly bloodless for a Fulci film and clunky at times (as if the editing were unfinished), but the slumming Savage gives it everything he’s got and it’s got its weird moments — especially for the Fulci faithful, who have a big head start here. Fulci directed under the pseudonym H. Simon Kittay and penned the story and screenplay as Jerry Madison. The costume designer was Laura Gemser, best remembered for the Black Emanuelle sexploitation films. **½

FANEX FILES: HAMMER FILMS (Alpha New Cinema): Tom Proveaux narrates this affectionate overview of the history of Britain’s Hammer Films, which earned its enduring reputation thanks to Gothic horror films from the ’50s through the ’70s, told through vintage trailers and interview footage with various guests at Fanex film conventions over the years, including such Hammer stalwarts as Christopher Lee, Jimmy Sangster, Ingrid Pitt, Veronica Carlson, Caroline Munro, Val Guest and James Bernard. **½

THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): That would be “Thou shall not kill,” but no one’s paying attention in this slick, obvious action yarn starring writer/producer Rick Yune as a hired killer who changes his tune when he’s assigned to assassinate a young pop star (Dania Ramirez). Filmed on location in Bangkok, with Roger Yuan, Bokeem Woodbine and the always-welcome Keith David also caught in the crossfire. Some good action scenes, but overly familiar. The Bodyguard this isn’t. Rated R. *½

“THE JUDY GARLAND SHOW: VOLUME ONE” (Infinity Entertainment Group): The first in a 13-volume set, each one containing two hour-long episodes from the prime-time CBS-TV variety show which ran 1963-’64, and was hosted (of course) by Judy Garland.

Despite lasting only one season, the series earned three Emmy nominations, including Outstanding Program Achievement in the Field of Variety and for Garland as Outstanding Performance in a Variety or Musical Program or Series. Guest stars in this volume include Count Basie, Mel Torme, Jerry Van Dyke, Soupy Sales and Garland’s daughter, Liza Minnelli. Sadly, after the show’s cancellation, it was pretty much all downhill for Judy. Each volume will retail for $19.98.

“LIBERACE: GREATEST SONGS” (MPI Home Video): A selection of highlights from the Emmy Award-winning, syndicated 1950s’ TV variety series hosted by the flamboyant pianist (born Wladziu Valentino Liberace), with brother George leading the orchestra. This two-DVD boxed set retails for $24.98.

MUHAMMAD ALI: IN HIS OWN WORDS (MPI Home Video): Based on the boxing champion and worldwide icon’s 1975 best-seller, this documentary ($9.98 retail) chronicles his life in and out of the ring.

PRINCESS PROTECTION PROGRAM (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): Disney Channel stars Selena Gomez (“Wizards of Waverly Place”) and Demi Lovato (“Sonny With a Chance”) team up for this comedy about an American girl (Gomez) who tutors a deposed South American princess (Lovato) in the finer art of being a regular teenager. This “Royal BFF Extended Edition” ($29.99 retail) includes a behind-the-scenes documentary and music video.

“THE QUEENS OF COUNTRY” (MPI Media Group): A collection of TV appearances featuring the music of three country music superstars: “Dolly Parton and Friends,” “Loretta Lynn: Songs of Inspiration” and “Patsy Cline.” This three-DVD boxed set retails for $24.98.

“ROUTE 66: SEASON THREE, VOLUME ONE” (Roxbury Entertainment/Infinity Entertainment Group): George Maharis and Martin Milner are on the road again in the first 16 episodes from the 1962-’63 season of the prime-time CBS-TV drama about two young men who travel across America looking for adventure — and frequently finding it. Guest stars include Rod Steiger, David Janssen, Buster Keaton, Edward Asner, Leslie Nielsen, Ron Howard, Vera Miles, Harry Guardino and Nina Foch. The episode “Lizard Leg and Owlet’s Wing” (broadcast for Halloween ‘62) features horror icons Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney and Peter Lorre. This four-disc boxed set retails for $29.98.

“SHARK WEEK: GREAT BITES COLLECTION” (Image Entertainment): Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water… this compilation of the Discovery Channel’s long-running series explores the mythology and reality surrounding the sea’s deadliest killing machines. Selections include “Surviving Sharks,” “How Not to Become Shark Bait” (always helpful), “Mysteries of the Shark Coast,” “MythBusters: Shark Special 2,” “Day of the Shark,” “Dirty Jobs: Greenland Shark Quest,” and various bonus features. The twodisc DVD boxed set retails for $24.98, the Blu-ray for $34.98.

“A TOUCH OF FROST” — SEASON 14 (MPI Media Group): David Jason (also an executive producer) reprises his awardwinning role as the acerbic but hard-driving Detective Inspector William “Jack” Frost in the last complete season of the longrunning, top-rated British TV series. This two-DVD set, which includes three cases, retails for $34.98.

THE TRACEY FRAGMENTS (Image Entertainment): Another poised performance by Ellen Page (she’s Tracey) dominates director Bruce McDonald’s awardwinning adaptation of Maureen Medved’s novel (scripted by the author herself), about a troubled teenager desperately trying to hold it together in a world that seems against her. The split-screen format certainly lends a fragmented quality to the proceedings — perhaps too much so. Rated R. **½

WATCHMEN (Warner Home Video): Director Zack Snyder’s long-awaited big-screen adaptation of the Dave Gibbons/Alan Moore ’80s comic book is set in an alternative universe in 1985 when the superheroes of the world are being mysteriously killed off. Often visually stunning, and just as often dramatically inert, this makes little effort to introduce new viewers into its universe and goes on forever.

Jackie Earle Haley (as Rorschach) and Patrick Wilson (as Nite Owl II) stand out in an uneven cast that also includes Billy Crudup, Carla Gugino, Malin Akerman and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. The theatrical version is available on a single-disc DVD ($28.98 retail). An extended director’s cut is available on a twodisc special edition ($34.99 retail) or a Blu-ray disc ($35.99 retail). Rated R. **

THE WIGGLES GO BANANAS! (Warner Home Video): Indeed they do, as this special-edition DVD ($14.98 retail) based on the popular, Australian-made children’s music series features 24 songs and guest appearances by the likes of Kylie Minogue and John Waters (the Aussie singer, not the American filmmakers). The latest Wiggles’ US concert tour began earlier this summer. (What a coincidence!)

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

Copyright 2009, Mark Burger

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