video vault

by Mark Burger

video vault

DVD PICK OF THE WEEK DO THE RIGHT THING (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): Filmmaker Spike Lee truly hit his stride with this stunning 1989 drama that marks its 20 th anniversary this year with a new special edition available on DVD ($29.98 retail) or Blu-ray ($39.98 retail. Set on a hot summer’s day in a the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn in New York City, the film follows the individual characters who populate the neighborhood, which certainly has its own collective personality, comprised of the various ethnicities who call it home. Tensions and passions occasionally run high; people sometimes clash and the heat only makes it worse. With a confident bravado, Lee (whose original screenplay earned an Oscar nomination) explores and examines race relations and personal relations in a vibrant, vivid and sometimes hilarious fashion. It is truly the work of a master filmmaker, one who doesn’t blink in depicting how the great American melting pot occasionally boils over despite our best intentions and ideals. Sometimes, a misunderstanding or a moment of anger can create a flashpoint from which there is no turning back. This is a film that poses tough questions, offers no easy answers and also happens to be gloriously, outrageously entertaining. There is exceptional acting from the ensemble cast: Danny Aiello (who earned an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor), Lee himself (as Mookie), John Turturro, Richard Edson, Giancarlo Esposito, Samuel L. Jackson, with especially powerful moments provided by the real-life husband-and-wife duo of Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee. Rated R. ***’½


THE BEST OF ‘SNOOP DOGG’S FATHER HOOD’ (LionsGate Home Entertainment): A selection of 8 episodes from the first two seasons of the ongoing E! Entertainment Network “reality sitcom” focusing on the home life of rapper Snoop Dogg (also an executive producer), his wife and kids. This DVD retails for $14.98.

THE BRUCE CAMPBELL DOUBLE FEATURE (Anchor Bay Entertainment): For those who can’t get enough of cult icon Bruce Campbell, this DVD twinbill ($14.98 retail) boasts writer/ director Josh Becker’s campy, award-winning Alien Apocalypse (2005); and Campbell’s longanticipated directorial debut, Man With the Screaming Brain (also ’05), which he also wrote, produced and stars in. Both films feature audio commentaries with Campbell.

CLEOPATRA (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): A 75 th – anniversary edition of Cecil B. DeMille’s 1934 epic of ancient Egypt, starring Claudette Colbert in the title role as the seductive and cunning Queen of the Nile, with Warren William as Julius Caesar and Henry Wilcoxon as Marc Antony. Victor Milner’s cinematography won an Oscar, with additional nominations for editing, sound recording, assistant director (a long-defunct category) and the big one, Best Picture. This special edition ($29.98 retail) includes retrospective documentaries and audio commentary by filmmaker/ historian FX Feeney, plus collectible lobby cards.

CRAZY GIRLS UNDERCOVER (Monarch Home Video): Clive Richardson, who looks like a cross between Josh Brolin and Jerry O’Connell, plays an ex-CIA agent who battles terrorists with the help of his crack team of Las Vegas showgirls. The girls are pretty, the story is junk and even by camp standards — which this aspires to — this is pretty lame. Rated R. *

HIGH HOPES (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Originally titled Nice Guys, this scattershot farce sees a group of Hollywood wannabes coming into possession of $2.5 million worth of government marijuana. Despite some funny moments and a friendly cast (including Corin Nemec, Jason Mewes, David Faustino, Michael De Lorenzo and Edward Furlong with real-life wife Rachael Bella), this can’t sustain its good vibes in the second half. Rated R. *’½

IMITATION OF LIFE TWO-MOVIE SPECIAL EDITION (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): This DVD double-feature ($29.98 retail) includes both screen adaptations of Fannie Hurst’s best-selling novel about two widows and their daughters as they confront racism. The 1934 version stars Claudette Colbert and Warren William (reunited from Cleopatra) and earned Academy Award nominations as Best Picture and for sound recording and assistant director. The 1959 version, produced by Ross Hunter and directed by Douglas Sirk (his last Hollywood film), stars Lana Turner, John Gavin, Dan O’Herlihy and Sandra Dee, and earned Oscar nominations for both Juanita Moore and Susan Kohner as Best Supporting Actress.

INFECTED (RHI Entertainment/ Genius Products): Everyone’s buggin’ out in Boston (actually Montreal) as alien beings attempt to conquer Earth with a virus. Gil Bellows and Maxim Roy portray newspaper reporters who smell a story, while Isabella Rossellini and Judd Nelson turn up as aliens. The fast-paced first half of this sci-fi conspiracy thriller is fun, but it falls apart in the second half. Rated R. **

JIMMY AND JUDY (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Real-life husbandand-wife Edward Furlong and Rachael Bella (also seen together in High Hopes) play two young misfits who hit the road — and go on a rampage — videotaping everything along the way. The award-winning debut feature of writer/producer/ directors Randall K. Rubin and Jon Schroder is not without its merits, but the video-camera point-of-view gimmick gets really old really fast. Rated R. **

LADIES OR GENTLEMEN (Anchor Bay Entertainment): John Landis and co-writer/director Kevin Burns are the executive producers of this amusing, insightful documentary, based on the book by Jean- Louise Ginibre, that examines the phenomena of cross-dressing and transgender in film. Narrated by RuPaul, with Tony Curtis, Tim Curry, John Waters and Landis weighing in. Needless to say, Edward D. Wood Jr. and Divine are highlighted — as well they should be. ***

LOST TREASURE OF THE GRAND CANYON (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Shannen Doherty and Michael Shanks discover a hidden underworld in the Grand Canyon in the early 20 th century and wind up battling Aztec savages and their monstrous god, Quetzlcoatl. This bit of comic-book/cliffhanger hokum has a few laughs, but grows tiresome in the latter stages. *’½

MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3-D (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Director/editor Patrick Lussier’s remake of the 1981 slasher favorite is one of the better ones, with an attractive cast (Jensen Ackles, Kerr Smith, Jaime King, gorgeous Betsy Rue and veterans Kevin Tighe and Tom Atkins), a nice sense of mystery, a good score by Michael Wandmacher and plenty of gore — all of it in 3-D. One problem: It goes on too long. Available as a standard DVD ($29.95 retail), a specialedition DVD ($34.98 retail), or as a Blu-ray disc ($39.99 retail). Rated R. **’½

NIGHTMARE CASTLE (Severin Films): In a tour-de-force performance, Barbara Steele plays two roles in this 1965 Gothic shocker (originally titled Amanti D’Oltretomba) involving sadism, lust, madness and murder. Uneven but entertaining — especially for fans of Italian horror — with beautiful cinematography by Enzo Barboni (later a director under the name EB Clucher) and a score by Ennio Morricone. Director Allen Grunewald is a Poe-inspired pseudonym for screenwriter/ producer Mario Caiano. This special-edition DVD includes interviews with Caiano and Steele. **’½

‘PORNORAMA’ (Severin Films): Porn stars Ron Jeremy (who else?) and Alexis Devell host this behindthe-scenes look at the adult film industry, originally broadcast as a cable-TV series in 1992. For those who can’t get enough of the Hedgehog, this DVD retails for $29.95.

‘REAPER’ — SEASON TWO (LionsGate Home Entertainment):All 13 episodes from the 2009 (and final) season of the awardwinning, prime-time CW situation comedy starring Bret Harrison as a young slacker who learns on his 21 st birthday that his parents sold his soul to the Devil (Ray Wise), who now wants him to act as Hell’s bounty hunter and keep the souls coming. This four-disc boxed set retails for $39.98.

VALKYRIE (MGM Home Entertainment/Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Producer/director Bryan Singer’s fact-based World War II thriller stars Tom Cruise (himself an executive producer) as a German officer who becomes the principal figure in a conspiracy to assassinate Adolf Hitler (David Bamber). Engrossing and methodical, but chilly and remote despite a top-flight supporting cast (Kenneth Branagh, Terence Stamp, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Eddie Izzard, Kevin McNally, Kenneth Cranham). Available as a single-disc DVD ($29.98 retail), a two-disc special edition DVD ($34.98 retail), or as a Blu-ray disc ($39.99 retail). Rated PG-13. **’½

‘Z ROCK’ — SEASON ONE (Anchor Bay Entertainment): All 10 episodes from the 2008-’09 season of the IFC “reality sitcom” starring Joey Casatta and real-life siblings David and Paul Zablidowsky as the hard-rocking, hard-partying members of a Brooklyn-based rock ‘n’ roll band who make ends meet during the day by performing as children’s entertainers. First-season guest stars include Dave Navarro, John Popper, Dee Snider, Gilbert Gottfried, Dave Attell and Sebastian Bach. The release of this boxed set ($19.97 retail coincides with the second season.

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

Copyright 2009, Mark Burger