video vault

by Mark Burger

DVD Pick of the week: Dark Star (VCI Entertainment)

John Carpenter made his directorial debut with this laidback, low-budget 1974 sci-fi send-up, newly reissued in what’s being billed as the 36’½ th anniversary “Hyper-Drive” special edition ($19.99 retail).

Taking its cue from such sci-fi classics as 2001: A Space Odyssey and Silent Running, with a generous dose of absurdist humor sprinkled throughout, the film follows the endless journey of the title spaceship, whose assignment is to blow up rogue planets with literal “smart bombs” (that actually talk and think!).

The ship’s crew consists of Brian Narelle, Dre Pahich, Cal Kuniholm and editor/co-writer Dan O’Bannon, a motley bunch of bored goofballs who’d rather be doing just about anything other than what they’re doing.

Although very much the work of up-and-coming filmmakers, Dark Star possesses a likably quirky attitude that made it a midnight-movie favorite well into the ’80s, fueled by Carpenter’s subsequent success with Halloween and O’Bannon’s with Alien.

Special features include a retrospective documentary that runs longer than film, and much more for all of those diehard Dark Star devotees out there. You know who you are.

Rated G.

ALSO Available’ 

AMERICA’S MUSIC LEGACY (QuantumLeap/MVD Visual): A series of documentariestracing different genres of American music:Gene Weed narrates “Country and Western,”LeVar Burton narrates “Gospel,” Billy Eckstinenarrates “Rhythm & Blues” and Fabian narrates“Rock ‘N’ Roll.” Each DVD retails for $16.95.BACK TO THE FUTURE 25THANNIVERSARY TRILOGY (Universal StudiosHome Entertainment): A special-edition triplefeature of Robert Zemeckis’ immensely popularsci-fi romps with Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly,the all-American teenager who takes the rideof his life back and forth through time, thanksto the DeLorean time machine constructed bythe brilliant Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd). Theoriginal 1985 film is an utter delight, but theback-to-back 1989 and ’90 follow-ups lacked itsspirit, although not its special effects. The DVDboxed set retails for $49.98, the Blu-ray boxedset for $79.98. All three films are rated PG.BANGKOK ADRENALINE (ImageEntertainment): Light-hearted (and often lightheaded)martial-arts madness, as a group offriends visiting the title town try to pay off agambling debt by kidnapping a local mob boss’daughter. Needless to say, this turns out to bea bad idea. Fancy stuntwork distinguishes thischop-socky potboiler. Rated R.EAT PRAY LOVE (Sony Pictures HomeEntertainment): This adaptation of ElizabethGilbert’s best-selling book stars Julia Roberts as awoman who, after breaking up with Billy Crudupand James Franco, embarks on a year-long overseasjaunt to regain her zest for life. The very definitionof a “chick flick,” with picturesque locations andan attractive cast (including Javier Bardem as Julia’sultimate dream man, Richard Jenkins and ViolaDavis) only partial compensation for the languidlypaced, soap-opera storyline. Rated PG-13 (alsoavailable in an unrated director’s version).ELF (Warner Home Video): An “ultimatecollector’s edition” of the 2003 box-officesmash starring Will Ferrell as one of Santa’s(larger) elves, who travels to New York City toseek his roots. Slight but good-natured, withnice supporting work by James Caan, MarySteenburgen, Bob Newhart, Zooey Deschaneland Edward Asner as Santa. The DVD boxedset retails for $39.92, the Blu-ray boxed set for$49.99. Rated PG.FALLEN (Image Entertainment): Paul Wesleyplays an all-American teenager who discovershis supernatural heritage in this adaptation ofThomas E Sniegoski’s best-selling series of fantasynovels, originally broadcast as a mini-serieson ABC Family. Bryan Cranston plays his nemesis,an angel-gone-bad — and the cast alsoincludes Fernanda Andrade, Rade Serbedzijaand Tom Skerritt. Available separately in Parts1 and 2 ($19.98 DVD retail) and Part 3 ($19.98DVD retail), or as “The Complete Movie Event”($27.98 DVD retail or $17.97 Blu-ray retail).HERMAN COHEN CLASSIC HORRORDOUBLE FEATURE (VCI Entertainment): ADVD twin-bill ($14.99) retail of two scare-fests,both produced in 1959 by B-movie maestroHerman Cohen: A memorably malevolentMichael Gough dominates Horrors of the BlackMuseum, while Richard Lyon and Clive Revillappear in The Headless Ghost.HUNT TO KILL (Anchor Bay Entertainment):Predictable action potboiler with Steve Austinas a retired US border agent who tangles with agroup of bank robbers (led by Gil Bellows) whohave taken him and his teenaged daughter(Marie Avgeropolous) hostage in the mountainsof Montana. The fight scenes aren’t bad, but thisends up an ersatz “Cliffhanger in the Woods.” EricRoberts takes an early powder (before the openingcredits) as Austin’s partner. Rated R.JIMI HENDRIX: THE GUITAR HERO (ImageEntertainment): Slash narrates this well-paced,well-told documentary tracing the career ofone John Allen “Jimi” Hendrix (1942-’70), whoserevolutionary style of power guitar continuesto inspire rock music to this day. Eric Clapton,Eric Burdon, Mick Taylor, Ginger Baker, DaveMason and Hendrix’ brother Leon are amongthose who offer affectionate, appreciative reminiscences.It’s ironic to see the legendary musiciansin their autumn years, whereas Hendrix’early demise makes him forever young.JUDGE PRIEST (Alpha Home Entertainment):Will Rogers embodies Irwin Cobb’s popular character,a homespun judge in 1890 Kentucky, inJohn Ford’s 1934 adaptation. Some of the story’ssentiments, to say nothing of Stepin Fetchit’s“comic” performance as the Judge’s shuffling sidekick,have seriously dated — but there’s no mistakingthat Ford magic. Other familiar faces on handinclude Anita Louise, Henry B Walthall, CharleyGrapewin, Rochelle Hudson, Hattie McDaniel andFrancis Ford (the director’s brother).OPERATION: ENDGAME (Anchor BayEntertainment): Abrasive, foul-mouthed espionageblack comedy (originally titled Rogues’Gallery) in which rival government assassinsstart knocking each other off. An all-star cast(Zach Galifianakis, Ellen Barkin, Ving Rhames,Jeffrey Tambor, Rob Corddry, Odette Yustman,Maggie Q, Emilie de Raven, et al) struggles tomine laughs from the material. Rated R.“PARKS & RECREATION”: SEASON 2(Universal Studios Home Entertainment): AmyPoehler heads the ensemble cast (and is one ofthe producers) of this prime-time NBC-TV situationcomedy about the ins and outs of city governmentin a small Indiana town. This four-DVDboxed set ($39.98 retail) includes all 24 episodesfrom the 2009-’10 season. Two Emmy nominationsincluding one for Poehler as OutstandingLead Actress in a Comedy Series.“PARTY DOWN”: SEASON TWO (AnchorBay Entertainment): The party continues for LA’smost ambitious caterers and wannabe Hollywoodstars, in all 10 episodes from the 2010 seasonof the critically-acclaimed Starz Entertainmentoriginal series. The ensemble cast includes LizzyCaplan, Ken Marino, Ryan Hansen and MeganMullally, with guest stars Kristen Bell, JK Simmonsand semi-regular Jane Lynch. This two-DVD boxedset retails for $29.97.SAN FERNANDO VALLEY (Alpha HomeEntertainment): One of Roy Rogers’ more lightheartedWesterns, this 1944 outing sees Roy and(second-billed) Trigger setting things right on aranch. Dale Evans (who else?) plays Roy’s loveinterest, while Bob Nolan and the Sons of thePioneers contribute a few songs.THE SLAMMIN’ SALMON (Anchor BayEntertainment): The Broken Lizard comedy troupereturns as the wait staff of a Miami seafoodrestaurant owned by a former boxing champ(Michael Clarke Duncan) in this raunchy send-upthat, like much of Broken Lizard’s work, is hit ormiss throughout — until it runs out of steamcompletely. Will Forte, Lance Henriksen, MorganFairchild, Jim Gaffigan and Vivica A Fox are also onhand for the shenanigans. Rated R.THE STITCHER (VCI Entertainment): Inspiredby “true events,” this generic low-budget shockersees a group of friends stalked by a costumedkiller in a backwoods burg. Energetically playedand jokey, but hampered by flabby third-actexposition and the unmistakable sense that we’vebeen down this road before.