video vault

by Mark Burger

DVD PICK OF THE WEEK CHAPLIN (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Robert Downey Jr.’s dazzling performance as the silentfilm pioneer, which earned him a 1992 Academy Award nomination as Best Actor, is the centerpiece of producer/ director Richard Attenborough’s ambitious, episodic show-biz drama, based on David Robinson’s biography and Chaplin’s own autobiography.

The film follows Charlie’s upbringing and early ambition, which paid off huge dividends when he began starring in comedy shorts during the silent era. A meteoric rise to stardom, and an unparalleled measure of creative control, was sidetracked by affairs of heart and state.

Downey’s stunning turn, which goes far beyond mere impersonation, is ably supported by all-star back-up: Dan Aykroyd (as Mack Sennett), Kevin Kline (as Douglas Fairbanks), Paul Rhys (as brother Sydney Chaplin), Anthony Hopkins, John Thaw, James Woods and Kevin Dunn as J. Edgar Hoover, whose public disdain for Chaplin during the Hollywood blacklist effectively sent the comic into exile for 20 years.

The women in Chaplin’s life are played by Diane Lane (as actress Paulette Goddard), Penelope Ann Miller, Moira Kelly, Marisa Tomei, Nancy Travis, Milla Jovovich and Chaplin’s real-life daughter Geraldine, playing her own grandmother. Made with affection and admiration, which helps pave over some melodramatic terrain, the film also earned Oscar nominations for John Barry’s score and art direction/set decoration, but was a box-office flop. Nevertheless, for those who love and revere classic Hollywood, Chaplin is well nigh irresistible. Rated PG-13. ***’½

ALSO ON DVD DRAGONBALL: EVOLUTION (TwentiethCentury Fox Home Entertainment): Something has clearly been lost in thetranslation of this American version of a popular Japanese action franchise involving ancient prophecies, wicked warriors, martial-arts action and other assorted oddities. A waste of some good actors (including Chow-Yun Fat, Emmy Rossum and Ernie Hudson) and a waste of time. The haphazard editing renders much of the exposition (such as it is) incomprehensible, although there are some unintentional laughs. It’s never a good idea to make a bad movie with the word “ball” in the title. Rated PG. ‘½*

HIDING OUT (LionsGate Home Entertainment): On the run from the FBI and the mob, stockbroker Jon Cryer decides to lay low — as a highschool student. This slick but predictable 1987 teen comedy gets a boost from its cast: Annabeth Gish, Keith Coogan, John Spencer, Tim Quill and Gretchen Cryer (Jon’s mom) as Aunt Lucy. Rated PG-13. **

IRRECONCILABLE DIFFERENCES (LionsGate Home Entertainment): In this 1984 comedy, Drew Barrymore plays the disenchanted daughter of Hollywood director Ryan O’Neal and novelist Shelley Long, who sues her parents for divorce. A few good in-jokes stand out in director Charles Shyer’s feature debut, with he wrote with then-wife Nancy Meyers (herself now a director). The supporting cast includes Sharon Stone, Allen Garfield, David Paymer and the muchmissed Sam Wanamaker as a studio bigwig. Rated PG. **’½

JAMES DEAN: THE FAST LANE (Infinity Entertainment Group): To commemorate the 54th anniversary of James Dean’s death, this two-disc collection ($14.98 retail) includes the actor’s early television appearances on such series’ as “General Electric Theater,” “Kraft Television Theater,” “Westinghouse Studio One,” movie trailers and Robert Altman’s 1957 documentary The James Dean Story.

KREATING KARLOFF (Smash Vision): An award-winning pseudodocumentary with actor and executive producer Conor Timmis performing a self-financed screen test reprising the classic horror roles played years before by Boris Karloff — evidently in the hope of proving to Hollywood that he should star in a biopic. Interesting, but with limited appeal. **’½

THE LEE STROBEL 3-DISC FILM COLLECTION (LionsGate Home Entertainment): A triple bill of theological documentaries based on the best-selling series of books by Lee Strobel: The Case for Christ, The Case for Faith and The Case for a Creator. This boxed set retails for $24.98.

THE MYSTERY TRAIN (Alpha Home Entertainment): Mistaken identities, a car figure prominently in this creaky 1931 mystery melodrama featuring Hedda Hopper (pre-gossip column) in a leading role. **

OLD JEWS TELLING JOKES (First Run Features): The title tells all in this amusing, light-hearted compilation taken from the on-line series, featuring 18 older Jews (men and women both) sharing their best — and worst — jokes. Some are funny, some are not and one or two are just awful. That’s part of its simple charm. **’½

PARKS AND RECREATION”: SEASON 1 (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): Once a Not-Readyfor-Prime-Time Player on “Saturday Night Live,” Amy Poehler graduates to prime-time player (and producer) in all six episodes from the 2009 season of the NBC-TV sitcom about the antics of midlevel government employees in a bucolic Indiana burg. This boxed set retails for $29.98, and is being released to coincide with the second-season premiere.

THE RAZOR’S EDGE (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Director Edmund Goulding’s 1946 adaptation of the W. Somerset Maugham novel is high-toned Hollywood soap opera starring Tyrone Power as a war veteran who embarks on a spiritual journey to find inner peace and self-knowledge. A little leisurely paced in the early going, but gets better and stronger as it goes along. Fine performances down the line: Anne Baxter, Gene Tierney, Clifton Webb, Herbert Marshall (as Maugham) and a brief cameo by Elsa Lanchester. Baxter won the Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress, with additional nominations for Best Supporting Actor (Webb), Best Art Direction/Set Decoration and the big one, Best Picture. ***’½

ROY ROGERS DOUBLE FEATURE (Alpha Home Entertainment): A selfexplanatory twin bill ($7.98 retail) of Westerns starring Roy Rogers, both directed by Joseph Kane: Southward Ho (1939) marked Rogers’ first on-screen teaming with George “Gabby” Hayes; and Song of Texas (1943) features Barton MacLane and Sons of the Pioneers.

STREET FIGHTER: THE LEGEND OF CHUN-LI (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Kristin Kreuk plays the title role in this slick, senseless combination of mysticism and mayhem, set in Hong Kong and based on the Capcom video game. A few laughs at the outset, but after awhile simply a bore. The befuddled cast also includes Neal McDonough, Chris Klein (especially befuddled), Robin Shou, Moon Bloodgood and Michael Clarke Duncan. Rated PG-13 (also avail-

‘ stolen diamond and a runaway Pullman able in an unrated edition). *

“TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES”: THE COMPLETE SEASON 8 (LionsGateHome Entertainment): For those who can’t get enough, the heroes in ahalf-shell return in all eight episodes from the 1994 season of thepopular animated series. This DVD retails for $14.98.

“THE TRIANGLE” (LionsGateHome Entertainment): Executive producers Bryan Singer and Dean Devlinalso earn a story credit for this award-winning sci-fi mini-seriesabout the mysteries surrounding the Bermuda Triangle. An allstar castincludes Sam Neill, Eric Stoltz, Catherine Bell, Lou Diamond Phillips,Bruce Davison and Charles Martin Smith. Two Emmy nominations, with awin for visual effects. This two-disc boxed set retails for $26.98.

ULYSSES (LionsGateHome Entertainment): Dino De Laurentiis and Carlo Ponti produced this1954 spectacle starring a bearded, brawny Kirk Douglas in the titlerole of the fearless hero immortalized in Homer’s The Odyssey. SilvanaMangano (Mrs. De Laurentiis in real life) plays both the sorceressCirce and Ulysses’ wife Penelope, with Anthony Quinn as one of her moreruthless would-be suitors. Campy but fun, the highlight being Ulysses’battle with the giant cyclops, Polyphemus. Seven (!) screenwritersincluded Ben Hecht and Irwin Shaw. **’½

WILD WEST DOUBLE FEATURE (AlphaHome Entertainment): Roy Rogers saddles up for a twin-bill ($7.98retail) of Westerns: Man from Cheyenne (1942) co-stars Gale Storm andthe inimitable George “Gabby” Hayes; Night Time in Nevada (1948) seesRogers joined by his trusty steed, Trigger, as well as Andy Devine andGrant Withers.

“WORST WEEK”: THE COMPLETE SERIES (UniversalStudios Home Entertainment): Kyle Bornheimer and Erinn Hayes play acouple that’s engaged, expecting a baby and trying to win over herparents (Kurtwood Smith and Nancy Lenehan) — in all 16 episodes fromthe 2008-’09 (and only) season of the primetime CBS-TV situation comedybased on the acclaimed British series “The Worst Week of My Life.” Thistwo-disc boxed set retails for $29.98.

To comment on this story, send your e-mail to:marksburger@yahoo.comMark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92.

Copyright 2009, Mark Burger