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by Mark Burger

video vault

DVD PICK OF THE WEEKWORLD’S GREATEST DAD(Magnolia Home Entertainment): The topicof teen suicide isn’t exactly conduciveto humor, but writer/director BobcatGoldthwait (one and the same) has madethe best film of his career with this bold,uncompromising, frequently hilarious blackcomedy — thanks to a huge assist fromleading man Robin Williams, giving one ofthe best performances of his career.Williams plays Lance Clayton, a mildmanneredand divorced English teacherstruggling to raise his son Kyle (DarylSabara), a lascivious and ill-mannered loutwho shows no respect to anyone, least ofall his father. But when Kyle accidentallyasphyxiates himself in an ill-conceived autoeroticpractice (read between the lines, ifyou will), Lance tries to cover up the actualcircumstance of his death by penning aneloquent note and making it look like suicide.The ruse, further fueled by Kyle’s “diary”(which Lance has also written) snowballsrapidly, much to Lance’s surprise — not allof it entirely unpleasant. In life, Kyle wasmiserable and obnoxious. In death, thanks tohis father’s chicanery, he becomes a nationalicon for teen angst — and propels Lance tothe sort of celebrity status he was unable toachieve before.Both Williams and Goldthwait nimblysidestep any semblance of sentiment, whichmakes the film all the more sharper andsavage. Although the film made waves atthis year’s RiverRun International FilmFestival in Winston-Salem, it deserved a farbetter reception (and a far bigger release)than it got. Nevertheless, it stands as one ofthe best, funniest and most outrageous filmsof the year. Rated R. ***’½ALSO ON DVDBYE BYE MONKEY (KOCHLorber Films): “Bizarre” does not begin todescribe writer/director Marco Ferreri’s firstEnglish-language film, an award-winning,absurdist 1978 satire set in a futuristic (?)New York City where Gerard Depardieudiscovers a baby monkey hidden in thecarcass of King Kong and begins to treatit like his child. Before an unexpectedlyfiery finale, it gets weirder and weirder.Among the equally eccentric denizens of thisfreakish landscape are Marcello Mastroianni,James Coco, Geraldine Fitzgerald, MimsyFarmer, Stefania Casini, Avon Long and GailLawrence (better known as adult-film starAbigail Clayton). **COUGAR CLUB (Vivendi Entertainment):This tacky sex comedy stars Jason Jurman andWarren Cole as college students who start aclub for young men attracted to older women.A waste of time and of a cast that also includesJoe Mantegna, Faye Dunaway, IzabellaScorupco, Kaley Cuoco, Jon Polito, LorettaDevine, Molly Cheek and extremely briefappearances by Jack Carter, Norm Crosby andCarrie Fisher. Rated R (also available in anunrated version). *THE ELEPHANT KING (E1Entertainment): Writer/director SethGrossman’s award-winning feature debut is acautionary tale starring Tate Oliver and JonnoRoberts as American brothers reveling in thehedonistic lifestyle of Thailand’s nightlife,only to discover the heavy price to pay forsuch misbehavior. Back home, Ellen Burstynand Josef Sommer play their worried parents.Rated R. **’½ELVIS HAS LEFT THE BUILDING(LionsGate Home Entertainment): DirectorJoel Zwick’s scatter-brained romantic/blackcomedy involves Kim Basinger and JohnCorbett (both attractive but stranded by thematerial), as well as a series of fatal accidentsinvolving Elvis impersonators. This strainedcomedy just barely scrapes by on the goodwill of its cast, which also includes DeniseRichards, Angie Dickinson, Wayne Newton(as himself), Annie Potts, Mike Starr, PhillLewis, Sean Astin, Billy Ray Cyrus, the latePat Morita, Tom Hanks and Zwick himself.Although Zwick directed one of the mostsuccessful comedies of all time (My Big FatGreek Wedding), this bypassed theatricalrelease here in the US. Rated PG-13. **FAR CRY (Vivendi Entertainment):The latest video-game adaptation from theindefatigable Uwe Boll involves a remoteisland in the Pacific Northwest populatedby genetically-enhanced mutant soldiers,being created for military use. Noisy,violent and stupid — par for the course inBoll’s oeuvre, although some of the actionscenes (especially the speedboat chase)aren’t bad. The cast includes Udo Keir(inspired typecasting as the mad scientist),Emmanuelle Vaugier, Til Schweiger, CraigFairbrass, Chris Coppola (providing comicrelief), Michael Pare (in one scene) and thelate Don S. Davis. *’½THE GAMBLER, THE GIRL ANDTHE GUNSLINGER (E1 Entertainment):Dean Cain, Allison Hossack and JamesTupper occupy the title roles in this amiableif unsurprising Western co-written by cultfilmmaker Larry Cohen. **THE GOLDEN BOYS (LionsGate HomeEntertainment): David Carradine, Bruce Dernand Rip Torn star as retired sea captains whoadvertise for a wife to keep house for them in1905 Cape Cod. Enter Mariel Hemingway, asa young widow whose charms and commonsense make her irresistible. The pleasuresof watching the cast (also including CharlesDurning, John Savage, Julie Harris and Rip’sdaughter Angelica) are almost completelyundone by leaden pacing. Adapted fromJoseph C. Lincoln’s novel by director DanielAdams. Rated PG. **HANNA D.: THE GIRL FROMVONDEL PARK (Severin Films): Dutchteenager Ann-Gisel Glass drifts into heroin,hooking and other various indignities in thiscautionary exploitation item from 1984.For all of the softcore silliness, this is forundiscriminating grindhouse junkies only.The DVD includes an on-camera interviewwith director/co-writer Rino Di Silvestre(AKA Axel Berger), who died in October. *THE HAUNTED AIRMAN (E1Entertainment): A pre-Twilight RobertPattinson broods and smokes frequentlyas a traumatized, paraplegic World War IIflier in this rendition of Dennis Wheatley’soccult novel The Haunting of Toby Jugg,adapted by producer/director Chris Durlacher.Julian Sands and Rachael Stirling are alsoon hand for this atmospheric but ultimatelyunsatisfying chiller. **“HEARTLAND”: SEASON 1, PART2 (E1 Entertainment): This two-DVDboxed set ($24.98 retail) includes episodes8-13 from the 2008 season of the awardwinning,Canadian-made family drama,based on a best-selling series of teen novelsby Lauren Brooke, starring Amber Marshalland Michelle Morgan as sisters dealingwith the death of their mother while toilingaway at the rustic horse farm owned by theirgrandfather (Shaun Johnston).LIONSGATE BLU-RAYS (LionsGateHome Entertainment): The Blu-ray roll-outcontinues, with the 15th-anniversary editionof Roland Emmerich’s award-winning 1994sci-fi hit StarGate (rated PG-13, $29.99 retail),starring Kurt Russell and James Spader; theunrated version of Darren Aronofsky’s stunning,award-winning 2000 adaptation of Hubert SelbyJr.’s best-seller Requiem for a Dream ($19.99retail), for which Ellen Burstyn scored an Oscarnomination as Best Actress; screenwriter/director Kathryn Bigelow’s award-winning,Western-tinged 1987 vampire thriller Near Dark(rated R, $19.99 retail); Arnold Schwarzeneggerand James Belushi as mismatched cops (is thereany other kind?) in Walter Hill’s enjoyable 1988action romp Red Heat (rated R, $19.99 retail);the 25th-anniversary special edition of LewisTeague’s award-winning (and quite faithful)1983 adaptation of Stephen King’s Cujo (ratedR, $19.99 retail); the 20th-anniversary specialedition of Fred Dekker’s affectionate, awardwinning1987 horror romp The Monster Squad(rated PG-13, $19.99 retail); the special editionof the original 1981 slasher favorite My BloodyValentine (rated R; $19.99 retail); MickeyRourke (in one of his best performances) andRobert De Niro in Alan Parker’s controversial,award-winning 1987 adaptation of Angel Heart(rated R, $19.98 retail); Mel Gibson and RobertDowney Jr. in the 1990 war satire Air America(rated R, $19.98 retail); Ryan Phillippe andBenicio Del Toro in screenwriter ChristopherMcQuarrie’s 2000 directorial debut Way ofthe Gun (rated R; $19.99 retail); Bill Paxton’sexcellent, award-winning 2001 directorial debutFrailty (rated R, $19.98 retail), starring Paxton,Matthew McConaughey and Powers Boothe;and the 2004 Hong Kong action blow-outNew Police Story (rated R, $19.99 retail), inwhich Jackie Chan stars and serves as producer,executive producer and stunt director.“MARVEL ANIMATION: 6FILM GIFT SET” (LionsGate HomeEntertainment): A collection of six animatedfeatures showcasing popular charactersfrom Marvel Comics: The award winningUltimate Avengers: The Movie (1986) and itsimmediate follow-up, Ultimate Avengers 2;the award-winning Doctor Strange (2007);The Invincible Iron Man (2007); NextAvengers: Heroes of Tomorrow (2008); and2009’s Hulk Vs. All of the films are rated PG-13 except Next Avengers, which is rated PG.This boxed set retails for $49.98.“NUMB3RS”: THE FIFTHSEASON (CBS DVD/Paramount HomeEntertainment): FBI agent Rob Morrowand his mathematics-genius brother DavidKrumholtz once again pool their skills tocrack the toughest cases, in all 23 episodesfrom the 2008-’09 season of the awardwinning,prime-time CBS-TV crime series.This six-DVD boxed set retails for $60.90.“THE PRISONER”: BLU-RAYEDITION (A&E Home Entertainment): All17 episodes from the classic 1967-’68 televisionseries come to Blu-ray, with executive producerPatrick McGoohan as “Number Six,” a formersecret agent imprisoned in a mysterious village,from which he tries to escape and figure outwho his captors are. McGoohan also wrote anddirected several episodes. This boxed set retailsfor $99.95.RIPPED OFF: MADOFF AND THESCAMMING OF AMERICA (A&E HomeEntertainment): Some $65 billion went downthe drain and investor Bernard Madoff is nowserving what is essentially a life sentence infederal prison, in a true-life financial fiasco thatis covered in this History Channel documentary.As a bonus, this special-edition DVD ($19.95retail) also includes the documentary Crash:The Next Great Depression?SNAKE DANCER (Mondo Macabro): ASouth African (!) exploitation melodrama,vintage 1976, starring Glenda Kemp asGlenda, a free-spirited but good-hearted girlwho finds fame as a striptease dancer whospecialty is an act involving live snakes.Alas, she becomes the target of an oppressivepolitical climate. If you like the snake routine,check out Glenda’s puppet act. *’½TRAIN (LionsGate Home Entertainment):A group of college wrestlers (including ThoraBirch, who far outclasses this trash) travelingthrough Eastern Europe fall prey to an illegalorgan-transplant ring aboard the title modeof transportation. Originally conceived asa remake of the ’80s favorite Terror Train,this grisly, one-note shocker might be moreaccurately titled “Torture Train.” Rated R. *WILLIE NELSON AND WYNTONMARSALIS PLAY THE MUSIC OF RAYCHARLES (A&E Home Entertainment): Thetitle tells all in this concert special, filmed atthe “Jazz at Lincoln Center” event in NewYork City. Willie and Wynton are joined byNorah Jones as they perform such Ray Charlesfavorites as “Hit the Road, Jack,” “UnchainMy Heart,” and many more. The DVD retailsfor $19.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95.Mark Burger can be heard Fridaymornings on the “Two Guys NamedChris” radio show on Rock-92.Copyright 2009, Mark Burger !

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