video vault

by Mark Burger

DVD Pick of the we’­ek: Solitary Man (Anchor Bay Entertainment)

Michael Douglas gives one of the best performances of his career in this biting adult comedy from directors Brian Koppelman (who also penned the script) and David Levien.

Once upon a time, Ben Kalmen (Douglas) was a successful auto dealer with a happy marriage — at least until a mid-life crisis threw him into a tailspin. Now approaching 60, his personal and professional life in tatters, Ben looks for a way to bounce back. Easier said than done.

Solitary Man is a perceptive coming-of-age fable for grown ups, with Douglas in remarkably endearing, empathetic form as an inveterate womanizer (and all-around cad) who never fails to do the wrong thing.

This is Douglas’ show all the way, but there’s ample opportunity for the supporting cast to shine around him: Susan Sarandon (as his sympathetic ex-wife), Jenna Fischer (as his fed-up daughter), Mary-Louise Parker, Imogen Poots, Jesse Eisenberg, Olivia Thirlby, Richard Schiff and Danny DeVito, the latter in warm-hearted form as Ben’s old college buddy. Rated R.


AFTER.LIFE (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Director/co-writer Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo’s feature debut is a moody, existential meditation on the notion of life and death, with Christina Ricci as a young woman whose other troubles pale in comparison to her latest dilemma: She’s dead. Or is she? Liam Neeson eerily plays the mysterious mortician who tries to convince her to accept the inevitable, Justin Long plays her increasingly panicked boyfriend, and the ubiquitous Celia Weston plays her mother, who’s clearly not playing with a full deck. A nice try, distinguished by great visuals (and a frequently undraped Ricci), but too often carried away with itself. Rated R.

ALL MY FRIENDS ARE FUNERAL SINGERS (IndiePix): Rutili, of the group Califone, makes his feature writing and directing debut (and contributed to the score) with this strange but interesting, existential fable with Angela Bettis as a young fortune teller whose house is overrun by spirits who can’t quite seem to cross over to the other side. Weird, whimsical and not a little selfindulgent.

“CHUCK”: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON (Warner Home Video): Zachary Levi returns as the US Government’s unlikeliest spy, in all 19 episodes from the 2010 season of the award-winning prime-time NBC-TV action/comedy series, which also stars Yvonne Strahovski, Joshua Gomez, Sarah Lancaster and Adam Baldwin. Emmy nomination for Outstanding Stunt Coordination (for the episode “Chuck vs. the Tic-Tac”). The DVD boxed set retails for $59.98, the Blu-ray boxed set for $69.97. Both contain special features.

DON’T LOOK UP (E1 Entertainment): A good-looking but empty remake of the 1996 Japanese shocker Joyu-rei, in which a film crew in Transylvania encounters malevolent supernatural phenomena. The cast includes Henry Thomas (funny as the producer), Reshad Strik (not so funny as the director), Kevin Corrigan, Lothaire Bluteau and Eli Roth. Rated R.

“GANGLAND”: SEASON FIVE (A&E Home Entertainment): Life on the mean streets across the United States is the focus of this History Channel reality series. This three-DVD boxed set ($34.95 retail) includes all episodes from the 2009-’10 season.

“INSTANT EXPERT” (A&E Home Entertainment): Like the title implies, this series of documentaries produced by the History Channel offers comprehensive examinations of such topics as “Egypt,” “The French Revolution,” “The Mayflower,” “Ben Franklin,” “Beowulf” and “The Story of Oil.” Each DVD retails for $14.95.

“JANEANE GAROFALO: IF YOU WILL” (Image Entertainment): The award-winning actress and comedienne discusses politics, pop culture, sex and other topics of interest, in her first stand-up comedy special in over a decade, originally broadcast on the EPIX channel. The DVD retails for $14.98, the Blu-ray for $17.97.

“THE OFFICE”: SEASON SIX (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): The shenanigans at paper supplier Dunder Mifflin continue, in all 25 episodes from the 2009-’10 season of the top-rated, prime-time NBC-TV situation comedy, which replicated (and even surpassed) the success of the BBC-TV series it was inspired by. Steve Carell, Jenna Fischer, John Krasinski and Rainn Wilson head the regular cast. Four Emmy nominations including Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series (Carell). The DVD boxed set retails for $59.98, the Blu-ray boxed set for $69.98.

“PAWN STARS”: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON (A&E Home Entertainment): This four-DVD boxed set ($24.95 retail) contains all 32 episodes from the 2009-’10 season of the popular History Channel series that focuses on the comings, goings, wheelings and dealings of the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, the only family-run pawn shop in Las Vegas.

RATED R: REPUBLICANS IN HOLLYWOOD (Docurama): Former political speechwriter Jesse Moss wrote, produced and directed this documentary about such notable show-biz conservatives as Drew Carey, Vincent Gallo, Patricia Heaton and others. Smirky at times, and a little on the short side (under an hour), but engaging and enjoyable.

REPO MEN (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): Jude Law and Forest Whitaker star as operatives who repossess synthetic organs (on the spot) from buyers who can’t pay, in this ultra-violent but clumsy sci-fi thriller based on Eric Garcia’s novel The Repossession Mambo. Law’s noir-ish narration, slick special effects, a few plot twists and some misfired satirical barbs don’t add up to much, and the domestic woes of Law’s character are a serious drag. Liev Schreiber, channeling a David Mamet-type salesman, earns a few laughs as the boys’ boss, and John Leguizamo appears unbilled. Good talent is wasted. Rated R (also available in an unrated version).

“SUPERNATURAL”: THE COMPLETE FIFTH SEASON (Warner Home Video): Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles return as the Brothers Winchester, still doing battle with the forces of evil in all 22 episodes from the 2009-’10 season of the popular, award-winning CW Television Network fantasy series. The DVD boxed set retails for $59.98, the Blu-ray boxed set for $69.97.

THAT EVENING SUN (Image Entertainment): Hal Holbrook gives a tremendous, career-capping performance in screenwriter/director Chris Teems’ award-winning debut feature, based on William Gay’s short stories, as an obstinate curmudgeon who returns to reclaim his home, only to learn it has been rented out to a local family in his absence. Extremely well-acted by all concerned, including Mia Wasikowska, Walton Goggins (also a producer), Carrie Preston, Ray McKinnon (also a producer), Barry Corbin and, briefly, Holbrook’s reallife wife Dixie Carter (in her final role). One of 2009’s best, but least-seen, films. Rated PG-13.

“UFC” (Anchor Bay Entertainment): The latest DVD installments of popular Ultimate Fighting Championship matches, replete with special features: “UFC 115: Liddell vs. Franklin” highlights the match between former light heavyweight champ Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell and former middleweight champ Rich “Ace” Franklin held in Vancouver in June. “UFC 116: Lesnar vs. Carwin” highlights the match between world champion Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin. Each DVD retails for $19.97.

“THE UNIVERSE: OUR SOLAR SYSTEM” (A&E Home Entertainment): A collection of 10 episodes from the debut 2007 season of the popular, self-explanatory History Channel documentary series, newly released on Blu-ray ($29.95 retail).

“THE VAMPIRE DIARIES”: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (Warner Home Video): Hollywood’s infatuation with attractive bloodsuckers continues with this popular, award-winning, prime-time CW Television Network fantasy series, based on the bestselling series of novels and set in the town of Mystic Falls, Vir., where vampire siblings Paul Wesley and Ian Somerhalder vie for the affections — and corpuscles — of innocent teenager Nina Dobrev. All 22 episodes from the premiere 2009-’10 season, as well as a bevy of bonus features, are included in this boxed set, which retails for $59.98 on DVD and $69.97 on Blu-ray.

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