video vault

by Mark Burger

DVD PICK OF THE WEEK HOMICIDE (The Criterion Collection): Writer/director David Mamet’s award-winning 1991 police drama never found its audience, yet it may be the most satisfying film Mamet ever made. Joe Mantega, in his best starring role, plays Bobby Gold, a Baltimore police detective inexorably drawn into a murder case (hence the title) that compels him to confront his identity as a man, a Jew and a cop. This is intricate and complex storytelling, handled with tact and savvy by Mamet, as Gold finds his loyalties torn by circumstances, only some of which are beyond his control. The filmmaker’s penchant for tough talk and irony is undiminished here, and played with verve by a cast that also includes William H. Macy (as Gold’s partner), Vincent Guastaferro, Jack Wallace and Ving Rhames. Mamet’s wife, Rebecca Pidgeon, and brother Tony also turn up briefly. Unrelated to the subsequent television series (which was also set in Baltimore), this is a thought-provoking and unexpectedly layered film, which may be why audiences expecting the usual shoot-’em-up didn’t know what to make of this. Their loss. This is a great film that got away. This much-anticipated DVD release includes a commentary with long-time collaborators Mamet and Macy. Rated R. **** ALSO ON DVD“BATTLESTAR GALACTICA”: SEASON 4.5 (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): The culmination of the award-winning Sci-Fi Channel sciencefiction series, contained in all 20 episodes from the 2008-’09 season. The regular cast includes Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell, James Callis, Tricia Helfer and Katee Sackhoff. The DVD boxed set retails for $49.98, the Blu-ray boxed set for $69.98. In addition, Universal is also releasing the self-explanatory “Battlestar Galactica”: The Complete Series. The DVD boxed set retails for $279.98, the Blu-ray boxed set for $349.98. BIG IRON COLLECTION (VCI Entertainment): During one month in 1950, director Thomas Carr and producer/ screenwriter Ron Ormond knocked out six consecutive, 60-minute B-Westerns featuring former Hopaling Cassidy sidekicks Jimmy “Shamrock” Ellison and Russell “Lucky” Hayden, and each film a remake of a ‘30s Western. This two-DVD boxed set ($29.99 retail) marks the first time that any of these films has been released in any video format: Crooked River, Colorado Ranger, Fast on the Draw, Hostile Country, Marshal of Heldorado and West of the Brazos. Raymond Hatton, Fuzzy Knight and Julie (then Betty) Adams co-star in all six films. CHILDREN OF THE CORN (Anchor Bay Entertainment): The Blu-ray debut ($29.97 retail) of the 1984 chiller based on a Stephen King short story, in which unwary motorists Peter Horton and Linda Hamilton find themselves fighting for their lives in a small Nebraska town where the children have slaughtered the adults and now worship “He Who Walks Behind the Rows.” The best part of this middling horror melodrama is the opening sequence, yet it proved successful enough to spawn several sequels and a remake (due later this year). Rated R. ** CHRIS ISAAK GREATEST HITS: LIVE (E1 Entertainment): The award-winning singer/songwriter performs in this concert documentary, originally broadcast on the PBS “Soundstage” series. This specialedition DVD ($19.99 retail) includes songs not included in the original broadcast. THE DEAL (Peace Arch Home Entertainment): William H. Macy is ideally cast as a has-been Hollywood producer who decides to stick it to the studio system by making a sure-fire loser: A biography of British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli, done as an action movie (“L’chaim, let’s fry ‘em”) with LL Cool J in the role. Adapted from Peter Lefcourt’s novel by Macy and director Steven Schachter, with Meg Ryan playing the studio executive who smells a rat — but can’t quite resist Macy. Also on hand: Elliott Gould, Jason Ritter, Aiden Lithgow, Bokeem Woodbine and John Carson, the latter a delight as a clueless British thespian. Rated R. **’ “EDDIE MURPHY DELIRIOUS: THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION” (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Originally broadcast on HBO, this monumental stand-up comedy special showcased Eddie Murphy at the outset of his meteoric career. This special-edition DVD, which retails for $29.97, includes footage deleted from the original concert and a featurette. GREEN STREET HOOLIGANS (Warner Home Video): Director Lexi Alexander’s award-winning 2005 feature debut stars Elijah Wood as an American expatriate who falls in with a rough bunch of football (read: soccer) fans in London and finds the violent lifestyle to his liking. Potentially provocative premise tends to deflate in the second half, despite Alexander’s flair for action and a memorable turn by Charlie Hunnam as the toughest of the hooligans. Alexander and Jon Favreau were among the executive producers. Rated R. ** “HOUSE”: SEASON FIVE (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): Hugh Laurie returns as the acerbic, assertive and brilliant disease specialist Dr. Gregory House, in all 24 episodes from the 2008-’09 season of the award-winning, prime-time Fox series. Laurie picked up an Emmy nomination as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. This boxed set retails for $59.98, and Universal is also releasing “House: Seasons 1-5 Collection,” a 26-disc boxed set ($299.98 retail) which includes every episode thus far of the series. THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS (VCI Entertainment): Harry Carey plays Hawkeye in this 12-chapter 1932 serial based on James Fenimore Cooper’s classic novel about life on the early American frontier. This two-DVD boxed set retails for $19.99.’“LIFE”: SEASON TWO (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): All 21 episodes from the 2008-’09 season of the prime-time NBC-TV series with Damian Lewis as an LA cop reinstated to the police force after being unjustly imprisoned for 12 years. This boxed set retails for $59.98. “LOS ANGELES LAKERS 2008- 2009 NBA CHAMPIONS” (NBA Entertainment/Warner Home Video): All-star guard Kobe Bryant leads the City of Angels’ NBA franchise to its 15th title, under the guidance of Phil Jackson, earning his record-breaking 10th championship as a head coach. No doubt it made Jack Nicholson happy. This DVD retails for $24.98. “LOST IN AUSTEN” (Image Entertainment): This four-part British mini-series, recently optioned to become a motion picture, puts a spin on Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice by having a modern-day woman (Jemima Rooper) switch places with Elizabeth Bennet (Gemma Arterton), the heroine of the story. The cast also includes Elliot Cowan (as Mr. Darcy), Alex Kingston, Hugh Bonneville, Florence Hoath and Lindsay Duncan. This DVD retails for $27.98. “MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL: ALL-CENTURY TEAM” (A&E Home Entertainment): With the baseball playoffs around the corner, Bob Costas narrates this documentary tracing the impact of the 30 greatest players of 20th-century Major League Baseball. (Phillies fans can breathe easy; Mike Schmidt is included.) This DVD retails for $9.95.“NCIS”: THE SIXTH SEASON (CBS Home Entertainment/Paramount Home Entertainment): Mark Harmon (also a producer) leads his Naval Criminal Investigative Service team back into action in all 25 episodes from the 2008- ’09 season of the prime-time CBS-TV crime drama. This six-DVD boxed set retails for $55.98.THE TRAIL OF THE LONESOME PINE (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): Henry Hathaway directed the first sound version of the John Fox Jr. best-seller, with Fred MacMurray as a coal executive who steps into a family feud when he negotiates mining rights with warring clans in the Blue Ridge Mountains, one of which includes kissin’ cousins Henry Fonda and Sylvia Sidney. Originally released by Paramount in 1936, this was the studio’s first Technicolor film. This holds up quite nicely, and roles that could easily have been played as stereotypes are lent dignity by the cast, which also includes Beulah Bondi (“I was born old”), Nigel Bruce (pre-Dr. Watson), Fred Stone, Samuel Hinds and Spanky McFarland as Sidney’s little brother. The song “Melody from the Sky” earned an Academy Award nomination. *** THE VILLAGE BARBERSHOP (Monterey Media): Writer/producer/ director Chris Ford’s award-winning feature debut stars John Ratzenberger as a Reno barber who begrudgingly takes on Shelly Cole as a business partner in this predictable but well-acted bittersweet comedy. Nice turn by Cindy Pickett as Ratzenberger’s love interest. Ford may be a talent to watch. Rated R. ** “YANKEEOGRAPHY: THE CAPTAINS” (A&E Home Entertainment): John Sterling narrates this documentary, culled from the Yes Network’s Emmywinning cable series, which offers in-depth profiles of seven of the Bronx Bombers’ team captains: Lou Gehrig, Thurman Munson, Graig Nettles, Ron Guidry, Willie Randolph, Don Mattingly and Derek Jeter. This two-DVD boxed set retails for $24.95. Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2009, Mark Burger !