video vault

by Mark Burger


BLOOD AND BONE (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Here’s a good, solid B movie that delivers the goods for action fans and puts enough spin on its formula to make it a satisfying diversion.

A buff, tough Michael Jai White (also a co-producer) is front and center as Isaiah Bone, a mysterious ex-con who muscles his way into the underground (and underworld) fight circuit, with the further intent of bringing down the crime ring behind it — particularly James (the terrific Eamonn Walker), a sadistic thug whose impromptu rendition of Wang Chung’s ’80s favorite “Dance Hall Days” is undoubtedly the film’s highlight, followed closely by his climactic battle against Bone, which offers up a surprise or two.

Also on hand are Julian Sands, cast to type (but having fun) as a ruthless kingpin, and Dante Basco as “Pinball,” the fast-talking hustler who becomes Bone’s manager. Veteran character actor Dick Anthony Williams lends a bit of old-school class as Bone’s neighbor, who comes to a bad end when he comes up against the bad guys. A number of real-life mixed martialartists (including Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson, Bob “The Beast” Sapp and Ernest “The Cat” Miller) provide the action in the well-choreographed fight sequences.

Directed with no-nonsense efficiency by Ben Ramsey, Blood and Bone is a pleasant surprise. Everyone involves tries a little bit harder, and that extra effort is plainly evident in the finished product. Rated R. ***


ADORATION (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Writer/producer/ director Atom Egoyam’s awardwinning drama explores the unexpected repercussions that occur when an orphaned teenager (Devon Bostick) uses the internet to explore his family’s past for a school writing assignment… but how much of it is actually true? Like many of Egoyam’s films, this requires patience — as the pieces of the story don’t fall completely into place until the end. Well-acted by Arsinee Khanjian (Egoyam’s real-life wife), Kenneth Welsh, Rachel Blanchard and Scott Speedman, especially good as Bostick’s emotionally reticent uncle. Rated R. ***

CRANK 2 HIGH VOLTAGE (LionsGate Home Entertainment): More mayhem in Los Angeles as Jason Statham keeps trying to re-start his heart in this follow-up to the 2006 box-office hit, which picks up immediately where the first film left off and ends up being just as absurdly over-violent. Amy Smart, Dwight Yoakam and Efren Ramirez all encore from the

first film (the latter as the twin brother of his original character!), and newcomers to the fold include David Carradine and Bai Ling. Cameos include Geri Halliwell, Corey Haim, John de Lancie, Ron Jeremy and more. Available as a single-disc DVD ($29.95 retail), a two-DVD special edition ($34.98), or as a two-disc Blu-ray special edition ($39.99 retail). Rated R. *’½

DRAGON HUNTER (Monarch Home Video): Too much time is spent with the hunters and not enough with the dragons in this middling, low-budget Medieval muddle. Rated PG-13. * HOMEBOY (LionsGate Home Entertainment): A labor of love (and ego) for Mickey Rourke, who wrote the screenplay under the pseudonym “Eddie Cook” and stars as a swaggering, punch-drunk, Southern-drawled prizefighter who risks his life to resume his career in the Asbury Park, NJ boxing circuit. There, he encounters a fast-talking hustler (Christopher Walken) who tries to steer him into a robbery. A complete exercise in self-indulgence, with Rourke making his character as unlikable as possible, although Walken’s nightclub routine is a riot. To date, the only film directed by noted cinematographer Michael Seresin (who shot Angel Heart with Rourke for the same producers). Rourke reportedly sued to prevent the film’s theatrical release in 1988, although it does have its devotees. Leading lady Debra Feuer was married to Rourke at the time, and the cast also includes Kevin Conway (as a neighborhood cop straight out of a ’30s B-movie), Ruben Blades, Jon Polito and Stephen Baldwin. Rated R. *’½

THE INFORMERS (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Screenwriters Bret Easton Ellis (also an executive producer) and Nicholas Jarecki adapt Ellis’ best-selling novel for this all-star wallow in excess — be it sexual, chemical or attitudinal — set in early-’80s Los Angeles. Sleek and slick, as befits the Ellis motif, but also smug and self-satisfied (ditto). An attractive, hardworking cast includes Billy Bob Thornton, Kim Basinger, Mickey Rourke, an overly mannered Winona Ryder, Amber Heard, Jon Foster, Rhys Ifans, Chris Isaak and Brad Renfro (in his final film). Rated R. **’½

“THE JUDY GARLAND SHOW”: VOLUME TWO (Infinity Entertainment Group): Judy Garland welcomes guests Barbra Streisand, the Smothers Brothers, Ethel Merman, Jane Powell and Ray Bolger for comedy and music in two more episodes from the Emmy-nominated, prime-time variety series which ran on CBS-TV from 1963-’64. This DVD retails for $19.98.

“KEEPING UP WITH THE KARDASHIANS”: SEASON TWO (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Kim, Kourtney, Khloe and the whole Kardashian clan (including Rob Jr.) are back in action, in all 10 episodes from the 2009 season of the popular E! Entertainment Television series. This special-edition DVD, which includes deleted scenes, retails for $19.98.

THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN (LionsGate Home Entertainment): An unrated version of director Ryuhei Kitamura’s award-winning adaptation of Clive Barker’s short story, with Bradley Cooper as a freelance photographer who investigates a series of brutal murders in the city subways and begins stalking the mysterious meat-packing worker (Vinnie Jones) who’s committing them. Wellmade but extremely gory, with a second half that really goes off the rails (sorry). Unaccountably dumped by the studio, this already boasts something of a cult following. Barker is among the film’s 16 (!) credited producers. **

ROCK OF AGES: AN UNAUTHORIZED STORY ON THE ROLLING STONES (Infinity Entertainment Group): What it says is what it is, a sketchy profile of the “World’s Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band,” narrated by Peter Kent and featuring almost no Stones tunes — which renders this uninspired rock documentary impotent and infuriating in equal measure. *’½

SAMSON AND THE 7 MIRACLES (Retromedia Entertainment/Infinity Entertainment Group): A DVD twin-bill of B-movie brawn ($19.98 retail): Gordon Scott plays the title role in director Riccardo Freda’s 1961 sword-and-sandal “epic” Samson and the 7 Miracles of the World (originally titled Maciste at the Court of the Grand Khan), which is set in 13 th century China and boasts a bad guy who proclaims: “Nothing’s impossible when I ask for it!” The bonus film, so to speak, is Ali Baba and the 7 Saracens (1964), which stars Dan Harrison (AKA Bruno Piergentili) as the hero of the Arabian Nights stories, here battling an evil king (Gordon Mitchell). Neither film is very good (or good — period), and both feature choppy editing and campy dubbing, but for bad-movie buffs this package may be irresistible. *’½

SHORT TRACK (Monarch Home Video): The world of stock car racing is dramatized in corny fashion in a dull family drama that’s riddled with clichés. A number of actual United Auto Racing Association drivers appear in the track scenes. Rated PG. *

SUPER CAPERS (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Writer/director Ray Griggs’ affectionate but thin superhero spoof starring Justin Whalin as would-be crimefighter — albeit one with no special powers — who wants to join the title team of superheroes. Lots of familiar faces on hand: Tom Sizemore, Michael Rooker, Danielle Harris, Adam West (as “ManBat,” a retired superhero-turned-cabbie), Doug Jones, Jon Polito, June Lockhart, Tommy “Tiny” Lister, Taylor Negron, Chris Owen, Clint Howard, Christine Lakin, Sam Lloyd and Griggs himself. Rated PG. **

THE TAKING OF PELHAM 1 2 3 (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Tony Scott’s needless remake of the 1974 subway-hijack thriller, based on John Godey’s best-selling novel, is a slick exercise in melodramatic flash, with Denzel Washington as a dispatcher forced to negotiate with the ruthless leader (John Travolta) of the hijackers, who demand a ransom be paid for the hostages in one hour’s time. Plenty of tough-guy talk and visual panache, but not a shade on the original film. Rated R. **

“THREE SHEETS”: COMPLETE SEASONS 1-3 (Infinity Entertainment Group): Alcohol aficionado and comedian Zane Lamprey hosts this InDemand series, in which he travels to destinations all over the globe to soak up the spirit(s). All 39 episodes of the series are included in this seven-DVD boxed set, which retails for $49.98.

TYLER PERRY’S MADEA GOES TO JAIL (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Writer/producer/director Tyler Perry’s onscreen alter-ego goes behind bars in this comedy/drama that features Perry’s expectedly uneven combination of soap opera and sass. Still, he always gives good opportunities to his cast, particularly Keshia Knight Pulliam, Derek Luke and Viola Davis here. Perry plays three roles in all, and there are plenty of cameos: Dr. Phil McGraw, Judge Joe Mathis, Steve Harvey, Al Sharpton, the cast of “The View,” etc. Rated PG-13. **

WEDDING IN WHITE (Somerville House): Screenwriter/director William Fruet adapted his own stage play for this heart-rending, award-winning 1972 screen adaptation set in a blue-collar Canadian burg during World War II, with Carol Kane as a timid teenager who becomes pregnant, forcing her angry father (Donald Pleasence) to hastily arrange a marriage — to a drinking buddy (Leo Phillips) his own age. Bleak yet believable, and beautifully played by Kane and the muchmissed Pleasence. Rated R. ***

“WOMEN’S EXTREME WRESTLING 2” (Infinity Entertainment Group): For those who can’t get enough — and you know who you are — this compilation of matches from Women’s Extreme Wrestling (WEW) features such hard-hitting gals as Annie Cruz, Dia Zerva, Amber O’Neal, Melissa Coates, Trina Michaels and many more. This DVD retails for $9.98.

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

Copyright 2009, Mark Burger