video vault

by Mark Burger

DVD PICK OF THE WEEKA PERFECT GETAWAY (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): There are plenty of twists and turns in writer/director David Twohy’s taut, fastmoving suspense thriller, in which “paradise lost” becomes “purgatory found” for a group of tourists. Hawaii has long been a haven for honeymooners, but lately an inordinate number of couples have been turning up murdered on the islands. Steve Zahn and Milla Jovovich play Cliff and Cydney, a young couple looking for fun. Timothy Olyphant and Kiele Sanchez play Nick and Gina, another couple with whom they meet on a hike to a remote beach and decide to tag along. Suspicions begin to fester during the arduous trek. After all, what do they really know about each other, and with the thought of those unsolved murders on their minds, they begin to wonder if some among them aren’t quite who they say they are. To say much more would spoil the fun and suspense, of which there is plenty — as well as a dark, sardonic sense of humor that further gooses the tension. The four leads (even Jovovich) assert themselves well in tricky roles, and Twohy keeps the momentum moving along at such a steady clip that one is rarely tempted to delve too much into the mechanics of the story. A Perfect Getaway is a good, grisly bit of escapism. See if you can guess whodunit. Rated R (also available in an unrated director’s cut). *** ALSO ON DVD’ AMERICAN PIE PRESENTS: THE BOOK OF LOVE (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): The seventh (!) in the teen-comedy series finds a trio of horny high-schoolers (Bug Hall, Kevin M. Horton and Brandon Hardesty) who stumble across “the Bible” — a book of seduction penned by horny high-schoolers of generations before. Clearly a franchise on auto-pilot, this gets a little mileage out of its cameo players: Rosanna Arquette (who really deserves better), Sherman Hemsley, Curtis Armstrong, C. Thomas Howell, Steve Railsback, Christopher Knight, Robert Romanus, Dustin Diamond, Tim Matheston, Sherman Hemsley, Kevin Federline, Bret Michaels, filmmaker Jim Wynorski and, of course, Eugene Levy in his signature role as Mr. Levenstein. Rated R (also available in an unrated version). * “CHUCK”: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON (Warner Home Video): Zachary Levi is back in action as the techno-geek-turned-CIA agent Chuck Bartowski in all 22 episodes from the 2008-’09 season of the popular, prime-time NBC-TV action/comedy series, which earned an Emmy Award for Outstanding Stunt Coordination (for the episode “Chuck Versus the First Date”). This limited-edition boxed set, which retails for $59.98 (DVD) and $69.97 (Blu-ray), includes the 3-D version of the episode “Chuck Versus the Third Dimension” and a pair of 3-D glasses, as well as other special features including featurettes and “declassified scenes.” DESIRE UNDER THE ELMS (Paramount Home Entertainment): Tempers and passions flare in 1840s New England when a tyrannical landowner (Burl Ives) brings home a much-younger wife (Sophia Loren), much to the initial dismay of his youngest son (Anthony Perkins). Director Delbert Mann’s 1958 adaptation of Eugene O’Neill’s classic play benefits from strong performances (including Pernell Roberts in his screen debut), Elmer Bernstein’s score, Daniel L. Fapp’s Oscar-nominated cinematography and Irwin Shaw’s highly suggestive dialogue. *** GHOSTS OF GIRLFRIENDS PAST (Warner Home Video): This ersatz updating of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” stars Matthew McConaughey as an incorrigible ladies’ man shown the romantic error of his ways when he attends his brother’s wedding. Flimsy and corny in equal measure, this romantic comedy/fantasy is forced to rely entirely on the collective charms of its cast: Jennifer Garner, Robert Forster, Anne Archer, Lacey Chabert, Breckin Meyer, Daniel Sunjata, Emma Stone and, channeling Hollywood producer Robert Evans, Michael Douglas as the ghost of McConaughey’s womanizing uncle. This project went through various directors and stars before it was finally made. Judging by the result, the wait wasn’t worth it. Rated PG-13. *’½ GILDA LIVE (Warner Home Video): Gilda Radner brings many of her “Saturday Night Live” characters (including Lisa Loopner, Roseanne Roseannadanna and Rhonda Weiss) to the Broadway stage in this 1980 concert documentary directed by Mike Nichols and produced by Lorne Michaels (who directed it on Broadway). Radner also collaborated on the text with fellow “SNL” veterans Michaels, Anne Beatts, Michael O’Donoghue, Paul Shaffer (who also appears) and Don Novello, who dons the familiar robes of Father Guido Sarducci. Fans of Radner have a huge head start, but in retrospect it’s nice to see her doing what she did so well: make people laugh. Available directly via the Warner Archive (at Rated R. **’½ HARRY POTTER AND THE HALFBLOOD PRINCE (Warner Home Video): The sixth in the phenomenally successful big-screen franchise, based on JK Rowling’s equally successful children’s-book franchise, is one of the darker (and better) installments, although the first half is slow going. Daniel Radcliffe (Harry), Rupert Grint (Ron) and Emma Watson (Hermione) are quite capable of shouldering the brunt of the proceedings, having grown comfortably into their roles, with heroic Harry drawing closer to his destiny during his latest semester at Hogwarts. Jim Broadbent joins the ongoing, all-star supporting cast: Michael Gambon, Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane, Julie Walters, David Thewlis, Timothy Spall and Warwick Davis. Available as a single-disc DVD ($28.98 retail), a two-DVD special edition ($34.99 retail), or in a Blu-ray combo pack ($35.99 retail). Rated PG. ***THE HILLS RUN RED (Warner Home Video): Director Dave Parker’s gruesome scare-fest sees a group of film buffs attempting to locate the origins of a legendary and long-banned horror film, only to find themselves “starring” in an updated version. Nothing great, but the production is polished, the acting’s not bad, and the pacing is fast. Not for the squeamish, however. ** INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): Quentin Tarantino revisits — and revamps — World War II with this action-packed, awardwinning shoot-’em-up loosely based on Enzo Castellari’s ’70s cult favorite, starring Brad Pitt as the leader of a group of mostly Jewish-American soldiers who wage war against the Nazis, in particular a ruthless colonel (the terrific Christoph Waltz) known as the “Jew Hunter.” Overlong at times, but also suspenseful, exciting and vividly realized by Tarantino. Look fast for Rod Taylor (as Churchill), Mike Myers, Bo Svenson (who starred in the original film) and Castellari himself. Available as a single-disc DVD ($29.98 retail), a two-DVD special edition ($34.98 retail), or as a two-disc Blu-ray ($39.98 retail). Rated R. *** JOHNNY MERCER: THE DREAM’S ON ME (Warner Home Video): Executive producer Clint Eastwood presents this music documentary commemorating the 100th anniversary of the birth of renowned lyricist and composer Johnny Mercer (1909-1976), who co-founded Capitol Records, earned 19 Academy Award nominations (winning four) and created such enduring tunes as “Hooray for Hollywood,” “That Old Black Magic,” “Moon River,” “Skylark” and the immortal “Jeepers Creepers.” This two-DVD special edition retails for $29.98. “THE L WORD”: THE COMPLETE FINAL SEASON (CBS DVD/Paramount Home Entertainment): The end of the line for the lovely ladies who inhabit a close-knit lesbian circle of friends in Los Angeles, in all eight episodes from the 2009 (and last) season of the award-winning Showtime series. The (very attractive) ensemble cast includes Pam Grier, Leisha Hailey, Jennifer Beals, Laurel Holloman, Katherine Moennig, Mia Kirshner, Marlee Matlin and Cybill Shepherd. This three-DVD boxed set retails for $59.99. “THE PHILANTHROPIST”: THE COMPLETE SERIES (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): After a personal tragedy, wealthy Teddy Rist (James Purefoy) uses his means and money to do good throughout the world, in all eight episodes from the 2009 (and only) season of the primetime NBC-TV drama based on real-life philanthropist Bobby Sager. Neve Campbell, Jesse L. Martin, Michael K. Williams and Lindy Booth round out the regular cast. This boxed set retails for $26.98. REEKER (CBS DVD/Showtime Entertainment/Paramount Home Entertainment): A group of college kids find themselves on a lonely stretch of highway, where they fall prey to a supernatural killer with a distinctive stench (hence the title). From this familiar set-up comes a fairly effective shocker with some nice touches, courtesy writer/producer/director/ composer Dave Payne and a decent cast that includes Arielle Kebbel, Michael Ironside, Eric Mabius, Devon Gummersall, Derek Richardson and Marcia Strassman. **’½ ROLE MODELS (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): Paul Rudd (also a screenwriter) and Seann William Scott play a pair of salesmen who wind up doing 150 hours of community service mentoring a group of incorrigible at-risk children. Uneven in spots but sometimes very funny, with Jane Lynch a standout as the mentor program’s ex-con director. Rated R (also available in an unrated version). **’½ “SING ALONG WITH BARBIE” (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): Yes, you and the kids can join in the singalong fun with this compilation of songs from various animated Barbie movies. This special-edition DVD retails for $14.98. TRACKS (Paramount Home Entertainment): Writer/director Henry Jaglom’s expectedly rambling, self-indulgent 1976 drama stars Dennis Hopper as a Vietnam veteran who loses his grip on reality while escorting a buddy’s body on a cross-country train trip… although he’s pretty unstable even before the train leaves the station. Not nearly as profound as Jaglom seems to think, but not without its points of interest. Also on board: Dean Stockwell, Taryn Power, Sally Kirkland, Frank McRae, Alfred Ryder, Zack Norman, Topo Swope, Richard Romanus (unbilled) and Jaglom’s real-life brother Michael Emil (in his screen debut). Rated R. **THE UNINVITED (DreamWorks Home Entertainment): The Guard Brothers (Charles and Thomas) directed this Americanized remake of the Asian horror hit Tale of Two Sisters, with Emily Browning and Arielle Kebbel as siblings who suspect their late mother’s nurse (Elizabeth Banks) isn’t what she appears — especially since she’s moved in on Dad (David Strathairn). A few jolts and twists, but perhaps too gimmicky for its own good. Still, it’s well-made and better-acted than most horror films. Rated PG-13. ** Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2009, Mark Burger !