video vault

by Mark Burger

DVD Pick of the week: Hot tub Time Machine (MGM Home entertainment/ Twentieth Century Fox Home entertainment)

An utterly ridiculous concept yields an irresistibly silly and surprisingly consistent farce that delivers big laughs (and quite a few grossout moments) time and again.

John Cusack (also a producer), Rob Corddry and Craig Robinson play three disenchanted friends who return to the ski resort where they partied during their high school years, accompanied by Cusack’s nephew (Clark Duke), hoping to recapture even a semblance of the fun they used to have. Instead, they are catapulted back in time to 1986 — then the fun really begins.

Director steve Pink mines every bit of humor from the inspired screenplay (by Josh Heald, Sean Anders and John Morris) that hits the requisite ’80s targets and also pays homage to time-travel movies of yesteryear, greatly assisted by a full-tilt, first-rate cast that includes hilarious appearances by Chevy Chase and the inimitable Crispin Glover. It’s a retro riot, undoubtedly destined for cult status. Rated R (also available in an unrated version).


ALEXANDER THE LAST (IFC Films/MPI Media Group): Rambling self-indulgence is the main ingredient of writer/cinematographer/costar/director Joe swanberg’s romantic comedy/ drama about an ambitious stage actress (Jess Weixler) drawn to her co-star (Barlow Jacobs) while her musician husband (Justin Rice) is on tour, only to discover that her sister (Amy Seimetz) has designs on him, too. This smacks of experimental theater (and depicts it), but that’s not a recommendation, and the film’s characters are irritating rather than interesting. Rated R.

ALIBI IKE (Warner Archive Collection): Joe e Brown plays the title role in this 1935 adaptation of Ring Lardner baseball stories, an eccentric rookie pitcher for the Chicago Cubs with a penchant for stretching the truth. Olivia de Havilland (in her screen debut) is totally miscast as the love interest, while William Frawley (a full 15 years before “I love lucy”) is cast to type as the Cubs’ gruff but lovable manager. sports fans may enjoy seeing such real-life athletes as Jim Thorpe, Bob Meusel, Wally Hood, Dick Cox and Don Hurst (of the Philadelphia Phillies) as ballplayers, but how much enjoyment one derives from this creaky vintage comedy depends wholly on their tolerance for Brown’s incessant and unrestrained (and trademark) mugging. Available directly from the distributor:

BRITISH CINEMA: OLD MOTHER RILEY (VCI entertainment): A collection ($29.95 retail) featuring six films from the popular low-budget series (15 total) starring popular vaudeville entertainer Arthur Lucan (in drag) in the dotty title role: Old Mother Riley in Paris (1938), Old Mother Riley MP (1939), Old Mother Riley’s New Venture (1950), Old Mother Riley’s Jungle Treasure (1951) and the last in the series, Old Mother Riley Meets the Vampire (1952), which co-starred Bela Lugosi (guess which role he plays?) and marked Lucan’s final film. It was released in the Us as My Son, the Vampire in 1963, by which time Lugosi was gone, too. Lucan’s real-life wife, Kitty Mcshane, co-starred in all but the last film as Mother Riley’s daughter, as they’d broken up before shooting.

“EVERWOOD”: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON (Warner Home Video): life goes on in the title town, in all 22 episodes from the 2004- ’05 season of the award-winning, prime-time WB series with Treat Williams as a surgeon who relocates with his children (Gregory smith and Vivien Cardone) following his wife’s death. James earl Jones notched an Emmy nomination as Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama series. This five-DVD boxed set retails for $39.98.

THE FILM NOIR CLASSIC COLLECTION VOLUME 5 (Warner Home Video): Fans of classic suspense movies will covet this incredible, four- DVD collection ($49.92) boasting eight black-and-white thrillers from Hollywood’s Golden era: Dick Powell stars in Edward Dmytryk’s post-World War II thriller Cornered (released on Christmas Day 1945); Susan Hayward and Paul Lukas race against the clock to save an innocent man (Bill Williams) from a murder charge in Deadline at Dawn (1946) the only film directed by noted stage director Harold Clurman; Steve Brodie and Raymond Burr star in Anthony Mann’s Desperate (1947); Marshall Thompson, sam levene and William Conrad (as “Chuckles” the bartender) star in Dial 1119 (1950); Charles McGraw, Adele Jergens and William Talman headline Richard Fleischer’s Armored Car Robbery (also ‘50); Vincent Sherman’s Backfire (also ’50) features Edmond O’Brien, Gordon MacRae, Virginia Mayo, Ed Begley, Viveca lindfors and Dane Clark; John McIntire, Richard kiley and kathryn Grant (pre-Crosby) star in Phil karlson’s The Phenix City Story (1955); and James Whitmore, sal Mineo and John Cassavetes (in his screen debut) star in Don siegel’s Crime in the Streets (1956).

THE GREAT ST. LOUIS BANK ROBBERY (Alpha Home entertainment): Steve McQueen’s the wheel man in this trim, fact-based ’58 melodrama about the southwest Bank heist that occurred a few years before, with several bank employees playing themselves. location shooting adds considerably.

HELL IN A CIRCUS (Alpha Home entertainment): Conrad Nagel and leila Hyams headline this pre-Code 1933 soap opera with oddball cautionary overtones, about a circus manager whose life comes undone when his wife dies and he learns the truth about her past. Originally released under the more appropriate title A Constant Woman and based on a Eugene O’Neill play, which is not mentioned in the credits.

“THE HONEYMOONERS” SPECIALS (MPI Home Video): A pair of prime-time ABC-TV comedy specials — “The Honeymooners: second Honeymoon” (1976) and “The Honeymooners: Valentine special” (1978) — which reunited Jackie Gleason as Ralph Kramden, Audrey Meadows as Alice Kramden, Art Carney as ed Norton, with Jane Kean the “new” Trixie Norton. The latter special marked the last “Honeymooners” project ever made. Neither has been released on home video before, and each DVD retails for $14.98.

“LIGHTS OUT”: VOLUME 7 (Alpha Home entertainment): A selection of four episodes from the black-and-white horror anthology series, based on a long-running radio show, which ran 1946-’52, on NBC-TV the last three seasons. This compilation ($7.98 retail) includes 1951’s “The Duel” with Tom Ewell, Joseph Wiseman and Anne Bancroft; “For Release Today” with Herbert Rudley; leslie Nielsen in “Mrs. Manifold”; and “Another Country” (1952) with Yvonne De Carlo.

A SINGLE MAN (sony Pictures Home entertainment): Colin Firth (who earned an Oscar nomination as Best Actor) is superb in the title role of Tom Ford’s award-winning directorial and screenwriting debut, an adaptation of Christopher Isherwood’s novel about a day in the life of a gay, grief-stricken, middle-aged college professor who decides to commit suicide following the death of his lover (Matthew Goode).

Julianne Moore is excellent as Firth’s best friend, too consumed in her own neuroses to recognize his desperation. The third act gets a little flowery, but it’s nevertheless an auspicious debut for Ford (who also financed the film himself) and one of 2009’s best films. Rated R.

“SUPERNATURAL”: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (Warner Home Video): The 2005-’06 season (all 22 episodes) of the awardwinning CW Television Network series makes its debut on Blu-ray, retailing for $49.99.

THE WILD WORLD OF TED V. MIKELS (Alpha New Cinema): John Waters narrates this documentary tracing the 60-year career of B-movie auteur Ted V Mikels, whose credits include The Corpse Grinders, The Doll Squad and The Astro-Zombies. Affectionate, informative and funny — a must for Mikels mavens.

WOLF CALL (Alpha Home entertainment): Director George Waggner’s 1939 adaptation of a Jack London story stars John Carroll as a wealthy playboy sent by his father (Guy Usher) to keep tabs on the family’s business interests at a radium mine in the wilderness (actually Big Bear, Calif.). Fast-moving fun, with a heroic dog (“smokey,” played by Grey shadow) and some songs thrown into the mix, as well as a supporting cast including Holmes Herbert, Movita, Polly Ann Young and Peter George lynn as an upstanding young priest with a mean right hook.

WORLD CUP SOCCER IN AFRICA: WHO REALLY WINS? (The Disinformation Company): Writer/produced/director Craig Tanner’s timely, interesting documentary examines how the 2010 World Cup Championship’s impact in south Africa as it filters down to the average people, in terms of who’s making money and who isn’t — and a lot of people aren’t.

Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2010, Mark Burger