video vault

by Mark Burger

DVD Pick of the week: Piranha (shout! Factory)

The fish are biting in Joe Dante’s award-winning 1978 solo directorial debut, the best of the Jaws rip-offs, available on special-edition DVD ($19.93 retail) and Blu-ray ($26.97 retail) — timed perfectly to coincide with the release of the 3-D remake.

A covert military experiment has yielded a strain of highly advanced, highly lethal piranha that are soon loosed upon an unsuspecting world when they are accidentally released from captivity. screenwriter John sayles works a sly sense of satire into the proceedings, captured well by Dante’s fast-paced direction.

A solid, stalwart cast includes Bradford Dillman and Heather Menzies (as hero and heroine, respectively), kevin McCarthy, keenan Wynn, Barbara steele, Bruce Gordon, Barry Brown (in his final screen role), Paul Bartel, Belinda Balaski, Richard Deacon and the always-welcome Dick Miller, as the manager of a waterthemed amusement park directly in the piranhas’ path.

A veritable fish-fry of special features includes an audio commentary with Dante and producer Jon Davison, a retrospective documentary, trailers and other goodies. Rated R.


BATMAN: UNDER THE RED HOOD (DCComics/Warner Home Video): There’s troublebrewing in Gotham City for the Caped Crusader(voiced by Bruce Greenwood) in this animatedfeature based on the popular DC Comics character.Available as a single-disc DVD ($19.98retail), a two-DVD boxed set ($24.98 retail) or aBlu-ray special edition ($29.99 retail).CARTOON NETWORK HALL OF FAME:“COURAGE THE COWARDLY DOG”:SEASON ONE (Warner Home Video): A two-DVDboxed set ($24.98 retail) consisting of all 13 episodesfrom the 1999-2000 season of the award-winning,animated Cartoon Network series focusing on themisadventures of the title character (voiced by MartyGrabstein), a timid canine who is constantly — andreluctantly — called upon to be a hero.CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS 2010 STANLEYCUP CHAMPIONS (NHl/Warner Home Video):The title tells all in this sports documentary thatchronicles the Chicago Blackhawks winning theirfirst stanley Cup since 1961. Unfortunately, theydid it against the Philadelphia Flyers, who haven’twon one since 1975… and don’t I know it. TheDVD retails for $24.98, the Blu-ray for $34.99.CLASH OF THE TITANS (Warner HomeVideo): The saga of the warrior Perseus (samWorthington is re-told in this silly extravagantornate remake of the 1981 fantasy, with liamNeeson (as Zeus) and Ralph Fiennes (as Hades)lending amusingly hammy support. Amidstthe spectacle and monsters you’ll also findGemma Arterton, Pete Postlethwaite, elizabethMcGovern, liam Cunningham, Jason Flemyng,Alexa Davalos and Izabello Miko. Not surprisingly,the spectacle and monsters tend to dominate.Rated PG-13.DEATHSPORT/BATTLE TRUCK DOUBLEFEATURE (shout! Factory): A DVD twin-bill($19.93 retail) of two Roger Corman B-movieclassics: David Carradine, Claudia Jennings andRichard lynch headline the low-budget, R-rated1978 sci-fi action thriller Deathsport (**); MichaelBeck, Annie Mcenroe and James Wainwrightstar in the PG-rated 1982 futuristic thriller BattleTruck (**’), filmed in New Zealand and releasedby Corman stateside as Warlords of the 21stCentury. Both films include audio commentariesand other extras.“THE GAME”: THE THIRD SEASON (CBsDVD/Paramount Home entertainment): BrittanyDaniel, Tia Mowry Hardrict and Wendy RaquelRobinson star in this spin-off of “Girlfriends,”portraying three friends dealing with the rigorsof relationships with professional athletes, inall 21 episodes from the 2008-’09 season of theaward-winning CW comedy series, which hassince made the jump to BeT next season. Thisthree-DVD boxed set retails for $36.98.“HAVE GUN, WILL TRAVEL”: THEFOURTH SEASON, VOLUME TWO (CBsDVD/Paramount Home entertainment): The inimitableRichard Boone reprises his signature role asPaladin, the erudite gun-for-hire, in the remaining19 episodes from the 1960-’61 season of thepopular, prime-time CBs-TV Western series. Thisthree-DVD boxed set retails for $39.98.THE HOTTEST STATE (THINkFilm): ethanHawke goes the auteur route as screenwriter anddirector of this adaptation of his novel, depictingthe relationship between an up-and-comingyoung actor (Mark Webber) and a young singer(Maria Catalina Moreno). The cast also includesHawke and laura linney as Webber’s parents,Michelle Williams, sonia Braga and Frank Whaley.sometimes insightful, sometimes entertaining,and sometimes pretentious. Rated R.“THE LUCY SHOW”: THE OFFICIALSECOND SEASON (CBs DVD/Paramount Homeentertainment): lucille Ball made a triumphantreturn to television with her second hit series, thistime playing a single mother who (naturally) alwaysseems to get into more trouble than her teenagedkids. Ball earned an emmy nomination forOutstanding Continued Performance by an Actressin a series (lead). This four-DVD boxed, which containsall 28 color episodes from the 1963-’64 season(plus bonus features), retails for $39.98.“MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000”:VOLUME XVII (shout! Factory): The latest four-DVD boxed set ($59.97 retail) from the longrunning(11 years), award-winning cable-TVfavorite sees the satellite of love crew deliveringinimitable commentaries on such bad-moviefavorites, relatively speaking, as Lost Continent(1951), Crash of the Moons (1954), Beast of YuccaFlats (1961) and Jack Frost (1964).THE OUTSIDE (Monarch Home Video): There’stoo much soap opera and not enough surfingin this mawkish melodrama starring MichaelGraziadei as a young surfer seduced by the waveof fame. some real-life surfers (including TajBurrow, Taylor knox, Holly Beck and sam George)turn up briefly, but this is a wash-out. Rated R.’“SMALL WONDER”: THE COMPLETESECOND SEASON (shout! Factory): TiffanyBrissette returns as VICI, a state-of-the-art robotwho becomes part of an all-American suburbanfamily, in all 24 episodes from the 1986-’87 ofthe award-winning(!), syndicated sitcom. Thisboxed set retails for $29.95.SOUTHERN GOTHIC (IFC Films/MPI MediaGroup): Writer/editor/director Mark Young’s lowbudgetshocker sees vampires on the loose at astrip club in a sleepy southern town. Filmed in andaround Charlotte, this never quite finds its stride,but plays it more straight — and gets better — inthe second half. William Forsythe chews the scenery(no pun intended) as a fire-and-brimstone preacherwho takes to vampirism quite readily. effective cinematographyby Gregg easterbrook.“THE SUPER HERO SQUAD SHOW:QUEST FOR THE INFINITY SWORD”:VOLUME 1 (Marvel entertainment/shout!Factory): A collection of seven episodes ($14.93retail) from the 2009-’10 season of the semi-satiricalCartoon Network animated series depictingthe adventures of such popular Marvel Comicscharacters as the Hulk, Iron Man, silver surfer,Wolverine (from X-Men) and others as they try toprevent the diabolical Doctor Doom from procuringthe title object, lest he rule the universe.SUTURES (MTI Home Video): All-too-typicalschlock horror about a group of young vacationersrunning afoul of an illegal organ-transplantring. Top-billed Andrew Prine plays themad doctor in charge. late-inning plot twistsdon’t help. Rated R.“SWAMP THING: THE SERIES”:VOLUME THREE (shout! Factory): Dick Durockreprises his big-screen role as the title characterin the final 24 episodes from the 1992-’93 seasonof the UsA Network fantasy series based onthe popular DC Comics character. Other seriesregulars include Carrell Myers, scott Garrison,kevin Quigley and Mark lindsay Chapman asswamp Thing’s nemesis, the nasty Dr Arcane.This four-DVD boxed set retails for $34.95.THE WHITE RIBBON (sony Pictures Homeentertainment): Michael Haneke’s atmospheric,award-winning psychological thriller is setin a seemingly peaceful German village on theeve of World War I, as a series of strange occurrencesseem to indicate the collective guilt (orresponsibility) of the village’s children. AcademyAward nominations for Best Foreign-languageFilm and for Christian Berger’s stunning blackand-white cinematography. A bit overlong butgenuinely unsettling. In German with englishsubtitles. Rated R.