video vault

by Mark Burger

DVD PICK OF THE WEEK CROSSING OVER (The Weinstein Company/Genius Products): Despite a star-studded cast headed by boxoffice heavyweight Harrison Ford, this topical melodrama about the immigration debate spent more than a year on the shelf before a quiet, unsuccessful theatrical release earlier this year. In the wake of the Oscar-winning Crash, writer/director Wayne Kramer fashions a series of intersecting storylines that tackle the hot-button immigration issue in episodic fashion. Among the characters who drift in and out of the storyline are a Muslim student (Summer Bishil), an Asian teenager (Justin Cho), a Mexican single mother (Alice Braga), a British musician (Jim Sturgess) and an aspiring actress from Australia (Alice Eve) — all of whom find themselves at the mercy of a system that Kramer views as flawed and corrupt… which it may very well be. The moral center of the piece is Ford’s Max Brogan, a veteran Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officer who’s seen it all — or so he thinks. Ray Liotta (especially sleazy and especially good), Ashley Judd, Cliff Curtis and Jacqueline Obradors round out the good cast, although Sean Penn — originally cast in the film — is nowhere to be found. Crossing Over raises far more questions than it answers, and although it doesn’t quite come together as a whole, there are some sharp and effective moments along the way. Rated R. **’½’ ALSO ON DVD 12 ROUNDS (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): The city of New Orleans goes crash, boom, bam as director Renny Harlin brings his customary touch to this high-concept action melodrama with wrestler John Cena as a cop engaged in an increasingly violent game of one-upmanship with an Irish arms dealer (Aidan Gillen) who holds a major grudge against him — and is holding his girlfriend (Ashley Scott) hostage. Better performances and a tighter running time would have made all the difference. Rated PG-13 (also available in an unrated version). *’½’ BATMAN (Warner Home Video): A 20th-anniversary Blu-ray edition ($34.99 retail) of Tim Burton’s 1989 box-office smash based on the popular DC Comics character, with Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne and his crimefighting alter ego, and Jack Nicholson (perfectly cast) as his nemesis, the Joker. This big box-office hit, which won an Oscar for art direction/set decoration, spawned three sequels and, more recently, a pair of “reboots.” Rated PG-13. ***’½’ BORN (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Alison Brie plays a virgin who finds herself pregnant with a baby less than human and far from holy, in this twisted and tacky supernatural saga that goes on and on… and eventually goes nowhere. (Maybe they should’ve called it Stillborn.) Also on hand, and wasted: Denise Crosby, Joan Severance and Kane Hodder (as the demon Asmodeus). Occasional detours into black comedy don’t help. Rated R. ‘½*’ THE DARK (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Maria Bello and Sean Bean encounter the supernatural after the disappearance of their young daughter (Sophie Stuckey) in this moody but muddled adaptation of Simon Maginn’s novel Sheep. Rated R. **’ DOMINICK DUNNE: AFTER THE PARTY (IndiePix): First-time directors Kirsty de Garis and Timothy Jolley make an auspicious feature debut with this fascinating, insightful documentary that examines the life and career of author Dominick Dunne, set against the backdrop of the (first) Phil Spector murder trial in Los Angeles. A must for Dunne devotees. (Also available directly from the distributor: ***’½’ “EASTBOUND & DOWN” (HBO Home Entertainment): All six episodes from the debut 2009 season of the prime-time HBO situation comedy starring UNCSA’s own Danny McBride (also a creator and executive producer) as a boorish, self-absorbed ex-baseball player who returns home — to Shelby! — and tries to get his life back on track. The executive producers include Will Ferrell (who appears in a recurring role), Adam McKay, McBride’s fellow UNCSA alumni Ben Best (who also co-stars) and Jody Hill. Hill and David Gordon Green (another UNCSA grad) also direct, while Tim Orr (see Sex Drive, below) serves as the series’ cinematographer. This two-disc boxed set retails for $29.98.’ ELSEWHERE (E1 Entertainment): Writer/director Nathan Hope’s feature debut stars Anna Kendrick as a teenager investigating the disappearance of her best friend (Tania Raymonde), who’d been meeting men online. A well-made and potentially provocative thriller is killed by ponderous pacing, and no sense of mystery whatsoever. Rated R. *’ “ENTOURAGE” — THE COMPLETE FIFTH SEASON (HBO Home Entertainment): The Hollywood ride continues for movie star Vince Chase (Adrien Grenier) and his title team (Kevin Dillon, Kevin Connolly and Jerry Ferrara) of supporters in all 12 episodes from the 2008 season of the critically-acclaimed, awardwinning, prime-time HBO series. Other regulars or semi-regulars include luscious Carla Gugino, Eammanuelle Chriqui, Beverly D’Angelo, Debi Mazar and the inimitable Jeremy Piven as super-agent Ari Gold. Guest stars include Martin Landau, Kevin Pollak, Tony Bennett, Eric Roberts and Mark Wahlberg (also an executive producer). This three-disc boxed set retails for $39.98.’ THE FAMILY THAT PREYS (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Writer/director/producer Tyler Perry’s drama depicts two families — one white, one black — whose longtime friendship comes undone in seriocomic soap-opera fashion. Played with conviction by a cast that includes Kathy Bates, Alfre Woodard, Sanaa Lathan, Taraji P. Henson, Rockmond Dunbar, Robin Givens, KaDee Strickland, Cole Hauser and Perry himself, but the third act implodes disastrously. Rated PG-13. **’ HIDE (MTI Home Video): This lowbudget, Tarantino-esque shoot-’em-up stars Rachel Miner and Christian Kane as criminal lovers on a rampage as they hit the road in search of stolen loot they’d hidden years before. Familiar material gets some mileage from the performances, but we’ve been down this road before… many times. Rated R. **’ KNOWING (Summit Entertainment): College professor Nicolas Cage starts to suspect an Apocalypse is in the offing when weird events begin transpiring around him. The first half offers some tantalizing mystery tidbits, but the second half descends into Left Behind territory and loses its way. Set in Massachusetts but (obviously) filmed Down Under, in Australia. Rated PG-13. **’ “LEVERAGE” — THE 1ST SEASON (Paramount Home Entertainment): Timothy Hutton and his crack team of con artists and computer hackers strike a blow for the little man as they thwart corporate and government crimes in all 13 episodes from the 2008-’09 season of the prime-time TNT series. Given the premise, they should never run out of ideas. This boxed set retails for $39.98.’ “MONK” — SEASON SEVEN (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): Tony Shalhoub, as television’s quirkiest sleuth, is back on the case(s) in all 16 episodes from the 2008-’09 season of the criticallyacclaimed, award-winning, prime-time USA Network series. Guest stars include John Turturro (as Monk’s brother), Brooke Adams (Shalhoub’s real-life wife), Sarah Silverman, David Strathairn and the always-welcome Hector Elizondo. This boxed set retails for $59.98. “PSYCH” — THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): Bogus psychic detective James Roday and smartmouthed sidekick Dule Hill (both co-producers) are back in action for 16 episodes from the 2008-’09 season of the prime-time USA Network mystery/ comedy series. This boxed set retails for $59.98.SAM’S LAKE (Barnholtz Entertainment/LionsGate Home Entertainment): “These parts ain’t safe this time of year,” warns a local yokel, but that doesn’t dissuade Fay Masterson (she’s Sam) and friends from spending the weekend at a lake with a bad history. You can guess what happens next, but you may not care. Writer/director Andrew Christopher Erin’s feature debut is an expanded version of his short film. Better it had remained a short. Completed in 2005, this has spent some years on the shelf. Maybe better it had stayed there. Rated R. ‘½*’ SEX DRIVE (Summit Entertainment): There’s rudeness and raunchiness to spare in this bawdy comedy with Clark Duke, Josh Zuckerman and Amanda Crew as a trio of teens who embark on a cross-country road trip in order to fulfill the promise of an on-line fling. Some big laughs and a riotous turn by James Marsden as the obligatory obnoxious older brother, but shorter would’ve been so much better. Nice cinematography by UNCSA School of Filmmaking alumnus Tim Orr. Rated R (also available in an unrated edition). **’½’ TWILIGHT (Summit Entertainment): Catherine Hardwicke directed this wildly popular, award-winning and incredibly overrated adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s best-selling series of novels, depicting the moony-eyed romance between a moody teenager (Kristen Stewart) and a handsome, mysterious classmate (Robert Pattinson) who happens to be a vampire. A total product of hype and hoopla — and a pretty empty one at that. The (first) sequel, New Moon, hits theaters in November. Rated PG- 13. **’ “YOUNG & HANDSOME: A NIGHT WITH JEFF GARLIN” (Shout! Factory): The popular actor/comedian (“Mad About You,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm”) returns to his roots at the Second City Theatre in Chicago for an evening of stand-up comedy. This DVD retails for $14.99. Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2009, Mark Burger !