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by Mark Burger

DVD Pick of the week: Endgame (Monterey Media)

This well-rendered docudrama, based on Robert Harvey’s book The Fall of Apartheid, offers a glimpse into the political machinations that preceded the end of South Africa’s apartheid regime in the mid-1980s.

Realizing that apartheid’s days were numbered, political figures and scholars from both sides — black and white — began covert negotiations in England to somehow pave the way for the sweeping sudden social change that the end of apartheid would undoubtedly entail. Those working for the “new” South Africa often find themselves butting heads, while the “old” South African regime isn’t going down without a fight. What’s at stake is the future of a nation and its people.

By not overemphasizing the profound nature of the reallife proceedings, Endgame has both a credibility and even an intensity, although the outcome is known by now. An informative and intelligent dramatization, well-served by its cast: William Hurt, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jonny Lee Miller, Mark Strong, Derek Jacobi, John Kani, Timothy West and Clarke Peters (as Nelson Mandela). Although made for theatrical release, this premiered in the US on PBS and earned an Emmy nomination as Outstanding Made for Television Movie. Rated PG-13.

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“30 ROCK”: SEASON 4 (Universal StudiosHome Entertainment): The day-to-day doings ata popular late-night variety show are depictedin all 22 episodes from the 2009-’10 season ofthe acclaimed prime-time NBC-TV situationcomedy that earned 15 Emmy nominations but,for the first time, went away empty-handed.Nominations included Outstanding Lead Actorand Lead Actress in a Comedy Series (AlecBaldwin and Tina Fey, respectively), OutstandingGuest Actor in a Comedy Series (both Will Arnettand Jon Hamm), Outstanding SupportingActress in a Comedy Series (Jane Krakowski),Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series(Elaine Stritch) and Outstanding Comedy Series.This DVD boxed set retails for $49.98.ADVENTURES AT SCHOOL (ScholasticStorybook Treasures): Getting into the schoolspirit, here’s a collection of animated children’sstories: “Crazy Hair Day… and More Back to SchoolStories,” “The Teacher from the Black Lagoon…and More School Stories,” and “Miss Nelson Has aField Day… and More School-Time Stories.” EachDVD retails for $14.95, a boxed set of all three for$24.95. In addition, Scholastic Storybook Treasuresis also releasing “Five Little Monkeys Jumpingon a Bed… and More Great Children’s Stories”($12.95 retail). The self-explanatory HalloweenStories Collection ($24.95 retail) features 18spooky children’s stories. The three-DVD boxedset “Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type… and MoreFun on the Farm” retails for $24.95. “The Boy WhoCried Wolf… and More Children’s Fables” ($14.95)retails includes tales told by Michael York, MandyPatinkin, Peter Scolari and BD Wong. Finally, there’sthe mammoth, 17-DVD boxed set “The ScholasticTreasury of 100 Storybook Classics, Vol. 2,” whichretails for $99.95. Kids’ vids are big biz, no question!“BLUE MOUNTAIN STATE”: SEASONONE (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Collegecraziness, on and off the gridiron at the titlecollege, in all 10 episodes from the 2010 seasonof the Spike TV comedy series starring DarinBrooks, Alan Ritchson, Chris Romano and EdMarinaro. The DVD boxed set retails for $29.98,the Blu-ray boxed set for $29.99.THE DESCENT: PART 2 (LionsGate HomeEntertainment): This sequel to the 2005 horrorhit sees different explorers entering the samecaves and finding the same gruesome fate. Wellmadeand atmospheric, but the novelty’s wornoff. Still, as sequels go this isn’t a bad one. ShaunaMacDonald and Natalie Mendoza reprise theirroles from the original. Rated R.DOC WEST (LionsGate Home Entertainment):A laid-back, light-hearted throwback to spaghettiWesterns, with Terence Hill (a veteran of many)co-directing and starring in the title role, a formerdoctor-turned-bounty hunter who’s as fast with adeck of cards as he is with a six-gun. Also on hand:Paul Sorvino (as a crusty but lovable lawman),Ornella Muti and Lise Hilboldt. Originally broadcastin Italy as a miniseries. Rated PG.THE EXPENDABLES (LionsGate HomeEntertainment): Sylvester Stallone directed,co-wrote and stars in this zippy throwback tothe brain-dead action films of the 1980s, as theleader of a mercenary team (whose membersinclude Jet Li, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren,Terry Crews and Randy Coutoure) who set outto overthrow a corrupt Latin American dictatorshipunder the thumb of a rogue CIA agent (EricRoberts at his preening best). Entertaininglyawful and awfully entertaining, with plenty ofCGI bloodshed and winking humor. The testosterone-fueled cast also includes Mickey Rourke,Gary Daniels and cameos by Bruce Willis andArnold Schwarzenegger. Rated R.“THE GUARDIAN”: THE SECONDSEASON (CBS DVD/Paramount HomeEntertainment): Simon Baker plays a Pittsburghattorney who rekindles his interest in the lawwhen assigned to be a part-time child advocatefor Legal Aid Services, in all 23 episodes fromthe 2002-’03 season of the award-winning,prime-time CBS-TV drama series, which co-starsDabney Coleman as Baker’s lawyer father. Thissix-DVD boxed set retails for $49.99.LOVE HAPPENS (Universal Studios HomeEntertainment): So does something else.Widowed self-help guru Aaron Eckhart findsromance with florist Jennifer Aniston while on alecture tour in Seattle, in this humdrum combinationof romantic comedy and soap opera thatcollapses under its own weight. Rated PG-13.Mac GRUBER (Universal Studios HomeEntertainment): Will Forte brings his “SaturdayNight Live” character to the big screen in this vulgar,scattershot spoof of ’80s action films, backedby fellow “SNL” standbys Kristen Wiig and MayaRudolph, Val Kilmer (as the villain), Ryan Phillippeand the always-welcome Powers Boothe. Featurefilms based on “SNL” sketches tend to stretch theidea too thin. Like this one. Rated R (also availablein an unrated edition).MY DOG: AN UNCONDITIONAL LOVESTORY (Docurama Films): Producer/directorMark St German’s warm (and fuzzy) documentaryfocuses on celebrities and their caninecompanions, including Edward Albee, GlennClose, Richard Belzer, Richard Gere and CareyLowell, Lasse Hallstrom, Edie Falco and the lateLynn Redgrave.SANTA CLAUS: THE MOVIE (LionsGateHome Entertainment): Having hit paydirt withthe Superman franchise, producers Alexanderand Ilya Salkind hit the wall with this charmless,leaden 1985 fantasy that purports to tell the“true story” of Santa Claus, played here by DavidHuddleston. Dudley Moore plays a disgracedelf and John Lithgow chews the scenery as amegalomaniacal toy tycoon. This 25th-anniversaryspecial edition, including director JeannotSzwarc’s audio commentary, retails for $14.98(DVD) or $19.99 (Blu-ray). Rated PG.SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD(Universal Studios Home Entertainment):Michael Cera plays a slacker who must defeatthe seven exes of his new girlfriend (MaryElizabeth Winstead) in this adaptation of thepopular graphic-novel series. Cera’s typecastingand the lack of onscreen chemistry betweenhe and Winstead are somewhat offset by EdgarWright’s splashy direction. Rated PG-13.“V”: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON(Warner Home Video): Extra-terrestrial visitorscome to Earth, supposedly in peace but actuallyto conquer, in all 12 episodes from the 2009-’10season of the award-winning prime-time ABC-TVscience-fiction series, based on a popular miniseriesand TV series from the 1980s. ElizabethMitchell, Morris Chestnut, Morena Baccarin andLogan Huffman head the regular cast. Emmynomination for Outstanding Special Visual Effectsfor a Series. The DVD boxed set retails for $39.98,the Blu-ray boxed set for $49.99.WINTER’S BONE (LionsGate HomeEntertainment): An award-winning adaptationof Daniel Woodrell’s novel, with young JenniferLawrence in a star-making turn as a resilient,self-reliant teenager who embarks on a perilousjourney through the backwoods of Missouri,and her own past, trying to locate her missingfather. Stark and effective. Rated R.YES, VIRGINIA (New Video): Jennifer LoveHewitt, Alfred Molina and Neil Patrick Harris lendtheir voices to this animated Christmas special($9.95 retail) inspired by the classic newspapereditorial about the existence of Santa Claus.

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