video vault

by Mark Burger

video vault’

DVD PICK OF THE WEEK THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE (Paramount Home Entertainment): Master filmmaker John Ford’s 1962 Western was patronized upon its initial release, but its reputation has deservedly grown over the years. The film dramatizes the civilization of the West, the transition from the old to the new, as personified by Tom Doniphon (John Wayne), a rugged rancher; Ransom Stoddard (James Stewart), an idealistic attorney from the East; and their mutual nemesis, the sadistic outlaw Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin), who holds the town of Shinbone in his grip. As the title implies, the man who ultimately shoots Liberty Valance will be the catalyst for change in Shinbone, and (symbolically) for the West as a whole. There are many Western archetypes in the characterization, yet they fit perfectly within the quietly ambitious context of the story, which includes one of the iconic lines from any Ford film: “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” A superior supporting cast includes Vera Miles (as the woman loved by both Stoddard and Doniphon), Edmond O’Brien, Andy Devine, Woody Strode, John Carradine and Ken Murray. Strother Martin and Lee Van Cleef ooze grimy menace as Valance’s sidekicks. Critics at the time weren’t terribly kind to the film, emphasizing the (not unjustified) opinion that Stewart and Wayne were too old for their roles, but it was a box-office success and earned Edith Head’s costume design an Oscar nomination. Many consider it to be Ford’s last great film. A new, two- DVD “Centennial Edition” ($16.99 retail) includes audio commentary and a behind-the-scenes retrospective. ***’

ALSO ON DVD AUSTRALIA (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman headline Baz Luhrman’s expensive, expansive, grand-scale soap opera about — what else? — Australia, a land of pride and prejudice, of love and war, of honor and corruption. Picturesque, to be sure, but also endless and, at times, frivolous. The supporting cast includes David Wenham (as the heavy) and Aussie favorites Mark Burger can be heard Bryan Brown and Jack Thompson, Friday mornings on the “Two both of whom exit the proceedings far Guys Named Chris” radio show too early. Oscar nomination for cos- on Rock-92. “Morella’s All-Nite Spooktacular” Five directors and a star-studded Copyright 2009, Mark Burger tume design. Rated PG-13. **

BECOMING BARACK: EVOLUTION OF A LEADER (Little Dizzy Home Video): This documentary feature traces the life and career of the young Harvard law student who became a community activist, went into politics, and now resides in the White House, featuring rare footage and interviews with colleagues and friends. This DVD retails for $14.99. “CALIFORNICATION”: THE SECOND SEASON (Showtime Networks/CBS Home Entertainment/Paramount Home Entertainment): All 12 episodes from the 2008 season of the award-winning Showtime series, starring David Duchovny (also an executive producer) as a lusty, self-loathing writer trying to navigate through life in California. This two-DVD boxed set retails for $42.99. “DEXTER”: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON (Showtime Networks/CBS Home Entertainment/Paramount Home Entertainment): North Carolina’s own Michael C. Hall returns as cable’s favorite forensics expert/serial killer, in all 12 episodes from the 2008 season of the award-winning Showtime series. Jennifer Carpenter, who plays Dexter’s sister on the series, is now his reallife wife. Other regulars include Julie Benz, Lauren Velez and James Remar. Three Emmy nominations: Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (Hall) and Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series (Jimmy Smits, for the episode “Go Your Own Way”). The DVD boxed set retails for $47.99 and the Blu-ray boxed set for $57.99. GHOSTS OF GOLDFIELD (North American Motion Pictures): A dull, low-rent chiller about five college students who visit a haunted hotel in Nevada and soon wish they hadn’t. Rated R. *

I LOVE YOU, MAN (Paramount Home Entertainment): Paul Rudd is engaged to Rashida Jones, but he’s never really had a friend close enough to be his best man. Enter Jason Segel, a likable slacker who seems to fit the bill perfectly… or does he? This good-natured farce takes its time to get going, which it does once Segel shows up. Still, any film that celebrates the music of Rush can’t be all bad. Also on hand: Jon Favreau, Jaime Pressly, Jane Curtin, JK Simmons, Andy Samburg and Lou Ferrigno (as himself). Rated R. **’

MAD MONSTER RALLY (Retromedia Entertainment/Infinity Entertainment Group): A DVD boxed set ($24.98 retail) boasting three volumes of B-movie favorites from yesteryear: includes the 1972 sci-fi shocker The Cremators (rated PG) and 1973’s House of Blood (also known as House of Terror and rated PG); “Morella’s Blood Vision” features writer/director Del Tenney’s 1964 voodoo chiller Zombies (better known as I Eat Your Skin and rated PG), director Newt Arnold’s 1971 shocker The Blood Seekers (rated PG) and 1978’s Blood Stalkers, the only film ever written and directed by Robert W. Morgan; and “Sci-Fi Trash-O- Rama,” which includes director Larry Buchanan’s Creature of Destruction (1967) starring Les Tremayne, writer/producer/director Michael A. DeGaetano’s 1974 feature debut UFO: Target Earth, and the 1950 documentary short The Flying Saucer Mystery. NFL MINNESOTA VIKINGS FIVE GREATEST GAMES (NFL Films/ Warner Home Video): It must be football season again, as this special-edition DVD ($39.92 retail) boasts the original network broadcasts of the Vikings’ five greatest games, including playoff wins over the 49ers (in 1988), the Cardinals (in 1998) and the Cowboys (in 2000). If the Vikings aren’t your team, keep reading….

NFL NEW YORK GIANTS 10 GREATEST GAMES (NFL Films/ Warner Home Video): Yeah, yeah, yeah… this 10-DVD boxed set ($49.98 retail) includes 10 of the Giants’ greatest victories, including Super Bowl XXI (in 1986), Super Bowl XXV (in 1990) and Super Bowl XLII (in 2007). They also beat the Philadelphia Eagles in two of the games included here, but I don’t need to see those again. Just for the record, the Giants play in New Jersey, not New York.

NFL PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 10 GREATEST GAMES (NFL Films/ Warner Home Video): Now we’re talking! This 10-DVD boxed set ($49.98 retail) features 10 of the Eagles’ greatest games including the “Miracle of the Meadowlands” (in 1978), the NFL Championship victories against the Cowboys (in 1980) and the Falcons (in 2004), and more — all of which I intend to watch again. Now, if only they’d win a Super Bowl….

NFL SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS FIVE GREATEST GAMES: SUPER BOWL VICTORIES (NFL Films/Warner Home Video): This boxed set ($39.92 retail) includes the full network broadcast of all five 49ers’ championship wins: Super Bowl XVI (in 1982), XIX (in 1985), XXIII (in 1989), XXIV (in 1990) and XXIX (in 1995). O. HENRY’S FULL HOUSE (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment):ensemble cast join forces for this engaging 1952 anthology based on the works of the North Carolina-born writer (born William Sidney Porter). Narrated by John Steinbeck, the best adaptations are those which bookend the film: “The Cop and the Anthem,” with Charles Laughton and Marilyn Monroe, and “The Gift of the Magi,” with Farley Granger and Jeanne Crain. The segment “Ransom of Red Chief,” starring Fred Allen and Oscar Levant and directed by Howard Hawks, was edited from the premiere prints and later restored on television. ***

ONE WAY (Vivendi Entertainment): A slow-moving suspense melodrama with Til Schweiger (who also produced) as a hotshot advertising executive caught up in a web of deception, blackmail and murder when a co-worker (Lauren Lee Smith) is raped by a colleague. A few interesting twists and Smith’s performance keep this watchable, but shorter would’ve been better. Also on hand: Eric Roberts, Art Hindle, Kenneth Welsh and Michael Clarke Duncan (wielding a tommy gun, no less). Rated R. **

THE SOLOIST (Paramount Home Entertainment): Joe Wright directed this fact-based drama about the friendship that develops between a newspaper columnist (Robert Downey Jr.) and a homeless man (Jamie Foxx) who was once a musical prodigy. Well-meaning and well-acted, but also obvious and, at times, preachy. Based on the best-seller An Unlikely Friendship by Steve Lopez (Downey’s character). Rated PG-13. **’

UNNEL RATS (Vivendi Entertainment): Notorious writer/producer/director Uwe Boll goes to war with this gruesome, claustrophobic Vietnam War melodrama featuring Michael Pare as the typical, hard-boiled platoon leader. Barely released to theaters, this is one of the few Boll films not based on a video game and, comparatively speaking, one of his more tolerable ones — although it’s not for the squeamish, in any case. Rated R (also available in an unrated edition). **

WOMEN’S EXTREME WRESTLING (Infinity Entertainment Group): If those football titles weren’t enough, here’s a self-explanatory collection ($9.98 retail) of hard-hitting matches featuring such famous female wrestlers as Christie Ricci, Bunni Luv, Simply Luscious and more.