video vault

by Mark Burger

DVD Pick of the week: Frozen (Anchor Bay Entertainment)

One of the more prominent of up-and-coming horror filmmakers, writer/director Adam Green delivers his best film to date with this highly effective chiller (no pun intended) that plays its simple concept to the hilt.

Kevin Zegers, Shawn Ashmore and Emma Bell (in her screen debut) play three friends on a weekend getaway whose decision to hit the ski slopes one last time for the night proves an unwise one, as the ski lift is shut down with them in one of the cars, halfway up the mountain. Before too long, the temperature drops and a blizzard rolls in.

The terrified trio must endure punishing cold, the height of the lift, and their mounting panic. And, unbeknownst to them but waiting below, is a pack of hungry wolves….

The key to the film’s success lies in how Green sustains the suspense, delivers the shocks, and keeps the action moving — and he’s aided by the three lead actors, who bring an empathetic intensity to their roles. There are even a few moments of black comedy, but make no mistake, this isn’t played for laughs. And although Green keeps some of the nastier moments offscreen, thereby engaging the viewers’s imagination even more, this is definitely not for the squeamish. Rated R.


“CRIMINAL MINDS”: THE FIFTHSEASON (CBS DVD/Paramount HomeEntertainment): A crack team of FBI profilersattempts to prevent the nation’s most diabolicalcriminal minds before they strike, in all 23 episodesfrom the 2009-’10 season of the awardwinningprime-time CBS-TV crime drama. Thecast includes Joe Mantegna, Thomas Gibson,Shemar Moore and AJ Cook (in her final season).This six-DVD boxed set retails for $64.99.THE EVIL/TWICE DEAD DOUBLEFEATURE (Shout! Factory): A DVD twin-bill($19.93 retail) of low-budget shockers producedby the indefatigable independent-film legendRoger Corman: The much-missed Richard Crennastars with Joanna Pettet, Andrew Prince and VictorBuono (as the Devil!) in 1978’s The Evil (**); in1988’s Twice Dead (**), a Los Angeles street gangterrorizes suburban teenagers who have justmoved into the local haunted house. Both filmsinclude audio commentaries and are rated R.THE EXORCIST (Warner Home Video):Director William Friedkin’s landmark 1973 adaptationof William Peter Blatty’s best-seller makes itsBlu-ray debut ($34.99 retail), which includes theoriginal theatrical version, the extended director’scut, and plenty of special features. Whether it’s thescariest movie of all time is debatable, but it’s rightup there. Nominated for 10 Academy Awardsincluding Best Picture and Best Director, with winsfor Best Adapted Screenplay (Blatty) and BestSound. Rated R.GOOD TO SEE YOU AGAIN, ALICECOOPER (Shout! Factory): The 1974 rock documentary,showcasing Alice Cooper in concert,makes its Blu-ray debut ($24.98 retail).GROWTH (Anchor Bay Entertainment):Thanks to genetic research gone wrong, anisland community is overrun by parasites inthis generic shocker.HAPPY TEARS (LionsGate HomeEntertainment): Writer/producer/director MitchellLichtenstein’s brittle, bittersweet comedy starsParker Posey and Demi Moore as sisters whoreturn to Pittsburgh to care for their aging, eccentricfather (Rip Torn). Family dysfunction madefunny by a cast that also includes Ellen Barkin,Roger Rees, Victor Slezak, Patti D’Arbanville andever-busy Salem College and UNC School of theArts alumnus Celia Weston. Rated R.“KEEPING UP WITH THEKARDASHIANS”: THE COMPLETE THIRDSEASON (LionsGate Home Entertainment):For those who can’t get enough of Kim, Khloe,Kourtney and the rest of the Kardashians,here’s all 12 episodes from the 2009 season ofthe popular E! Entertainment Television realityseries focusing on their high-profile lives. Thistwo-DVD boxed set retails for $19.98.“LEAVE IT TO BEAVER”: SEASONTHREE (Shout! Factory): Jerry Mathers andTony Dow return as Theodore “Beaver” Cleaverand brother Wally, in all 39 episodes from the1959-’60 season of the prime-time ABC-TV situationcomedy, still perennially popular in syndication.This six-DVD boxed set retails for $39.97.“LESS THAN PERFECT”: SEASON ONE(LionsGate Home Entertainment): TV news isthe backdrop for this award-winning, primetimeABC-TV sitcom, which stars Sara Rue, EricRoberts, Andy Dick, Andrea Parker and a pre-”Chuck” Zachary Levi. This four-DVD boxed set,which retails for $24.98, contains all 22 episodesfrom the premiere 2002-’03 season.METAMORPHOSIS (MTI Home Video):Dumb American tourists encounter vampireswhile touring the Carpathian Mountains. A fewbursts of energy aren’t enough to compensate formessy storytelling. Christopher Lambert hams itup as one of the bloodsuckers. Rated R.PERSON OF INTEREST (ArizticalEntertainment): A series of murders in a coastalNew England town arouses the interest of afemale sheriff (Elise Rovinsky) and a homicidedetective (Julie Bell) who’s also her lover, inwriter/producer/director Christopher Ward’s lowbudgetwhodunit. The lesbian aspect is handledin sympathetic fashion, but the overall story isbogged down by bad dialogue, idiotic plot twistsand uneven performances. It all goes wrong.THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE (UniversalStudios Home Entertainment): Producer JosephPapp and director Wilford Leach brought theirwildly successful, Tony Award-winning 1979stage version of the Gilbert & Sullivan classic tothe big screen in 1983, but by embracing (andeven replicating) its stage origins it never findsits footing as a film — and didn’t come remotelyclose to replicating the success of the play. Theoriginal Broadway cast is on hand — KevinKline, Linda Ronstadt, Rex Smith, Tony Azito andGeorge Rose, with Angela Lansbury stepping infor Estelle Parsons. This is one of those movieswhere it looks like everyone making it had a ball,yet it still doesn’t come across. Rated G.RED DESERT (The Criterion Collection):Michelangelo Antonioni’s award-winning 1964drama, set against the backdrop of industrializationand labor unrest in Italy, stars Monica Vitti asan emotionally troubled woman who drifts intoan affair with her husband’s colleague (RichardHarris), Exquisite cinematography by Carlo diPalma — this was Antonioni’s first color film —but the narrative could have been tightenedconsiderably. Still, this has its devotees amongthe Antonioni faithful. In Italian with English subtitles.The special-edition DVD and the specialeditionBlu-ray each retail for $39.95.THE RIG (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Subparscare fare with the crew of the titular oil rigencountering an inhuman underwater menaceduring a storm. On top (or bottom) of everythingelse, top-billed William Forsythe exits theproceedings far too early. Rated R.ROBIN HOOD (Universal Studios HomeEntertainment): Russell Crowe is ideally cast inthe title role of Ridley Scott’s colorful, actionpackedadventure saga, which combines historicalfact with fictional license in its telling ofthe oft-told tale of Robin and his merry men.Cate Blanchett goes toe-to-toe with Crowe asMarian (no maiden she!), and the supportingcast includes William Hurt, Mark Addy, MarkStrong, Danny Huston, Eileen Atkins and thealways-welcome Max Von Sydow. A bit longish,but quite entertaining and deserving of a bettercritical reception than it got. Available as asingle-disc DVD ($29.98 retail), a two-DVD specialedition ($34.98 retail), or as a DVD/Blu-raycombo ($39.98 retail). Rated PG-13 (also availablein an unrated director’s cut).SPLICE (Warner Home Video): Adrien Brodyand Sarah Polley portray scientists whose illicitDNA experimentation results in a strange, ultimatelylethal, new form of life (played by newcomerDelphine Chaneac). Before it goes off therails in the third act, this is a sleek, well-madeand even thought-provoking science-fictionyarn. Rated R.STOMP THE YARD: HOMECOMING (SonyPictures Home Entertainment): This witlesssequel to the 2007 box-office hit focuses on acollege hip-hop competition, with far too manydetours into boy-meets-girl and student angstterritory. A few fancy moves but little else. Thecast includes Keith David, Jasmine Guy and thefirst film’s lead, Columbus Short, seen in footagefrom that film. Rated PG-13.