video vault

by Mark Burger

DVD Pick of the week:


Acting up a storm all the way, Nicolas Cage shuffles, shambles and staggers through this delirious, often demented, award-winning character study directed with canny aplomb by no less than Werner Herzog.

Less a remake or sequel to Abel Ferrara’s controversial 1992 descent into urban and moral hell (which starred Harvey Keitel in the title role) than a re-imagining of some of the earlier film’s themes, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans is an entirely different film with an entirely different, far wackier point of view.

Cage’s detective Terence McDonagh has it all: A badge, a gun, a drug habit, a gambling problem and a workload that tends to take a backseat to his more immediate, aforementioned needs. He’s in the process of self-destructing, which Cage plays to the hilt and beyond, painting this black comedy with broad, energetic strokes.

Legitimate police work takes a backseat to McDonagh’s erratic interaction with a variety of colorful characters, some more screwed-up than he is (if that’s possible), including his equally drug-addled hooker girlfriend (Eva Mendes), his alcoholic father (Tom Bower) and beer-swilling wife (Jennifer Coolidge), his bookie (reliable Brad Dourif), a local drug lord (Alvin “Xzibit” Joyner) and, from time to time, his fellow cops (Val Kilmer, Fairuza Balk, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Shawn Hatosy and Michael Shannon). Rated R.


BIGGER THAN LIFE (The Criterion Collection):

Director Nicholas Ray’s 1956 melodrama stars James Mason (who also produced) as a suburban schoolteacher who is prescribed cortisone to treat an incurable condition, becomes addicted, and begins to display psychotic behavior. Over-baked to the point of kitsch, but with enough subversive touches to engender a belated following among Ray devotees. At the time, however, it was a critical and financial dud. Love it, hate it or laugh at it, this is one strange film. Special features include an audio commentary and an archival interview with Ray (in which he never mentions this film).

THE BOX (Warner Home Video): Cameron Diaz and James Marsden play a couple who will receive a cool $1 million if they push a button on a box delivered by mysterious Frank Langella … except someone they don’t know will perish as a result. Screenwriter/director Richard Kelly’s long-winded, self-indulgent adaptation of the Richard Matheson story Button, Button — with faint echoes of Kafka and Kubrick among its inspirations — has its weird moments, and a few evocative ones, but it’s too convoluted for its own good. Salem College and UNC School of the Arts graduate Celia Weston appears as Diaz’ mom. Rated PG-13.

“CLASH OF THE GODS”: THE COMPLETE SEASON ONE (A&E Home Entertainment): The origins of such mythical characters as Zeus, Hercules, Hades and Medusa are explored in this 10-episode History Channel series narrated by Stan Bernard. The three-DVD boxed set retails for $29.95, the two-disc Blu-ray boxed set for $39.95.

COPYRIGHT CRIMINALS: THIS IS A SAMPLING SPORT (IndiePix): First-time director Benjamin Franzen’s excellent, informative documentary feature, based on Kembrew McLeod’s bestseller, examines the (nowcommon) practice of sampling other songs, with interviews by those who sample and those who have been sampled — including Parliament Funkadelic’s George Clinton, who always has something to say.

THE HANGOVER (Warner Home Video):A wild bachelor weekend in Las Vegas goes uproariously awry for Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis and Ed Helms when they “misplace” the groom (Justin Bartha) following a booze-soaked, drug-addled night out on the town. Thanks to the cast’s chemistry and Todd Phillips’ deft (and daft) direction, this awardwinning comedy remains funny throughout — enough to become one of the highestgrossing comedies in history. Fun supporting work by Heather Graham (as a friendly stripper), Mike Tyson (as himself), Ken Jeong, Mike Epps and director Phillips (as “Mr. Creepy”). Available as a single-disc DVD ($28.98 retail), a two-disc special edition ($34.99 retail) or as a Blu-ray special edition ($35.99 retail). Rated R (also available in an unrated version).

“THE JACKSONS: A FAMILY DYNASTY” (A&E Home Entertainment): This reality-TV series, which earned big ratings when it premiered shortly after the death of youngest brother (and biggest star) Michael, focuses on the personal and professional lives of performers Jackie, Jermaine, Tito and Marlon Jackson.This two-DVD boxed ser retails for $24.95.

JULES ET JIM (The Criterion Collection):Joanne Moreau is torn between Oskar Werner (he’s Jules) and Henri Serre (he’s Jim) during a 25-year span in Francois Truffaut’s award-winning 1962 adaptation of Henri Pierre-Roche’s novel (released in the US as Jules and Jim), long hailed as one of the quintessential love triangles ever depicted on screen. In French with English subtitles. This two-DVD special edition retails for $39.95.

“THE LAIR”: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON (E1 Entertainment): All 13 episodes from the 2009 season of the here! Network series set in and around the title establishment, a pri vate gay club run by vampires. The regular cast includes David Moretti, Dylan Vox and Colton Ford, working under the auspices of writer/ producer/director and B-movie mogul Fred Olen Ray. This boxed set retails for $29.98.

THE LEAST OF THESE (IndiePix): Producer/ director Clark and Jesse Lyda’s well rendered and sympathetic documentary about the controversy surrounding the T. Don Hutto Residential Center, a former Texas prison re-opened in 2006 as a detention center for illegal immigrants.

“LIFE WITH DEREK”: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON (E1 Entertainment): All 26 episodes from the 2007-’08 season of the popular, award-winning Disney Channel situation comedy starring Michael Seater (he’s Derek) and Ashley Leggat as precocious teenagers thrown together as step-siblings when their parents marry. This three- DVD boxed set retails for $29.98.

THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE MOTION PICTURE TRILOGY (Warner Home Video): Peter Jackson’s much-admired, hugely successful and Oscar-winning adaptations of HRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy come to Blu-ray in this nine-disc boxed set ($99.98 retail) that includes special editions of all three films: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Two Towers (2002) and The Return of the King (2002). All three films are rated PG-13.

“MATT HOUSTON”: THE FIRST SEASON (CBS DVD/Paramount Home Entertainment): Lee Horsley plays the Texas oil tycoon-turned-private eye, on the case in Los Angeles, in all 23 episodes from the 1982-’83 season of the prime-time ABC-TV detective series, which earned an Emmy nomination (the only one during the series’ run) for Outstanding Film Editing for a Series (for the episode “The Showgirl Murders”). This six-DVD boxed set retails for $49.98.

THE REAL WOLFMAN (A&E Home Entertainment): Jonathan Adams narrates this lowkey, matter-of-fact History Channel documentary that attempts to solve a notorious murder spree that claimed over 100 lives in the French village of Gevaudan in the mid-1700s, which some believe to have been committed by an actual werewolf.

SHERLOCK HOLMES (Warner Home Video):Director Guy Ritchie’s flashy, overblown, “reinvention” of the classic Arthur Conan Doyle character stars Robert Downey Jr. in the title role of the Great Detective, with Jude Law as his Dr. Watson. Their onscreen camaraderie is faithful to the original stories, but too often the film goes for the bigger as opposed to the better — trampling much of its charm underfoot. Still, it made a lot of money, earned two Oscar nominations (Best Art Direction/Set Decoration and Best Original Score), and kicked off a new screen franchise. Also with Rachel McAdams as Irene Adler, here occupying dual functions as femme fatale and damsel-in-distress, Eddie Marsan as Inspector Lestrade, and Mark Strong as the villainous Lord Blackwood (Moriarty, anyone?). Rated PG-13.

VENGEANCE TRILOGY (Palisades Tartan): A triple-feature of special editions of award-winning films by acclaimed Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook: Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002), Oldboy (2003) and Lady Vengeance (2005). This eight-disc boxed set retails for $49.98.

“WALKER, TEXAS RANGER”: THE SEVENTH SEASON (CBS DVD/Paramount Home Entertainment): Chuck Norris returns to lay down the law in the Lone Star State, in all 25 episodes from the 1998-’99 season of the long-running, award-winning prime-time CBS- TV police series. This five-DVD boxed set retails for $49.99. CBS DVD is also releasing the selfexplanatory, 51-DVD boxed set “Walker, Texas Ranger: The Complete Series Pack,” which retails for $220.98. That’s a lot of Chuck Norris!

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

Copyright 2010, Mark Burger