video vault

by Mark Burger

DVD Pick of the week: Videodrome

(The Criterion Colletion)

David Cronenberg’s savage, subversive 1983 treatise on media manipulation remains one of the filmmaker’s most original and most controversial works. It’s not for all tastes — a Cronenberg trademark — but it’s vividly and intelligently realized. Love it or hate it, one isn’t likely to forget it.

James Woods (at his edgy best) plays Max Renn, an opportunistic cable-TV hustler who has just discovered the next big thing in adult entertainment, called Videodrome. Upon further investigation, however, Max discovers that the program has some nasty neurological side effects and is the pivotal component in a nefarious conspiracy that takes high technology to lethal limits — and beyond.

Like any self-respecting cult classic, Videodrome was just a bit ahead of its time. The film holds up very well, having lost none of its visceral (read: gut-wrenching) impact, and a streak of jet-black humor seems more relevant now than when first released. The special-edition DVD and Blu-ray each retail for $39.95. Rated R.

ALSO AVAILABLE “THE BIG BANG THEORY”: THECOMPLETE THIRD SEASON (Warner HomeVideo): Jim Parsons and Johnny Galecki are thebrains and Kaley Cuoco the beauty who livesnext door, in all 23 episodes from the 2009-’10 season of the popular, prime-time CBS-TVsituation comedy, for which Parsons won theEmmy as Outstanding Lead Actor in a ComedySeries. Four additional Emmy nominationsincluding Christine Baranski as OutstandingGuest Actress in a Comedy Series. The DVDboxed set retails for $44.98, the Blu-ray boxedset for $54.97. DISNEY’S “A CHRISTMAS CAROL” (WaltDisney Studios Home Entertainment): Jim Carreystars as Scrooge (and other characters) in RobertZemeckis’ expensive, CGI-animated adaptationof the Charles Dickens classic. Visually impressivebut not particularly endearing… and did we reallyneed another version of this story? It might havebeen at least as interesting to see the same talentinvolved in a live-action version. Still, it’s hard tototally screw this story up. Other familiar voicesinclude those of Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, RobinWright Penn, Fay Masterson and Bob Hoskins.Available as a single-disc DVD ($29.99 retail), aDVD/Blu-ray combo ($39.99 retail), or a four-discDVD/Blu-ray combo ($49.99 retail). Rated PG. FLIPPED (Warner Home Video): Rob Reiner’swarm-hearted, sun-dappled adaptation ofWendelin Van Draanen’s nostalgic best-sellerstars Madeline Carroll and Callan McAuliffe asneighbors in a suburban neighborhood whoserelationship is fraught with complications. Theyoung leads hold it together, backed by a supportingcast that includes Aidan Quinn, RebeccaDe Mornay, John Mahoney, Penelope Ann Millerand Anthony Edwards. A would-be (and shouldbe)sleeper that audiences missed; this deserves asecond chance on home video. Rated PG. “FRINGE”: THE COMPLETE SECONDSEASON (Warner Home Video): All 23 episodesfrom the 2009-’10 season of the prime-timeFox science-fiction series focusing on investigationsof the strange and bizarre as conductedby the FBI’s “Fringe Division.” The cast includesAnna Torv, John Noble, Joshua Jackson, LanceReddick and Blair Brown, with Leonard Nimoya recurring guest star. Emmy nomination forOutstanding Sound Editing for a Series. TheDVD boxed set retails for $59.98, the Blu-rayboxed set for $59.98. HANNAH MONTANA FOREVER: WHO ISHANNAH MONTANA? (Walt Disney StudiosHome Entertainment): That would be Miley Cyrus,reprising her popular role as Hannah Montana inthis DVD selection ($19.99 retail) of eight episodesfrom the award-winning Disney Channel musical/comedy series that propelled her to stardom. INCEPTION (Warner Home Video):Christopher Nolan’s dazzling, mind-bending sci-fifantasy stars Leonardo DiCaprio as an industrialspy who utilizes state-of-the-art technology inorder to enter other people’s dreams. But that’sthe just the beginning of the story… MichaelCaine has little to do (although it’s nice havinghim around), the all-star supporting cast shines:Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ken Watanabe, Ellen Page,Marion Cotillard, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy,Tom Berenger, Dileep Rao and an unbilled PetePostlethwaite. Sometimes it’s too much, but it’snever not enough — and one of the year’s bestthrill rides, although some impact will be lost onthe small screen. Rated PG-13. “LEGEND OF THE SEEKER”: THEFINAL SEASON (Walt Disney Studios HomeEntertainment): Swords and sorcery figureprominently in the battle between good andevil, in all 22 episodes from the 2009-’10 seasonof the syndicated fantasy series starring CraigHorner as the heroic Richard Cypher, based onTerry Goodkind’s best-selling The Sword of Truthnovels. Emmy Award for Outstanding MusicComposition for a Series (Original DramaticScore, for the episode “Prophecy”). This five-DVD boxed set retails for $45.99. LEGO HERO FACTORY RISE OF THEROOKIES (LE GO Group/Warner Home Video): Ifthe Transformers can make a high-tech comeback,why not LE GO? The perennially popular toy linebecomes an animated sci-fi feature (and now aNickToons television series), pitting a group ofheroes against the forces of evil. Seems we’veheard that story before…. The vocal talent includesMalcolm McDowell, Henry Winkler, John Schneiderand Mark Hamill. This DVD retails for $14.97. LOTTERY TICKET (Warner Home Video):Bow Wow toplines this latter-day riff on UptownSaturday Night and Friday as an average kid fromthe projects who wins the lottery — at which pointthings go haywire. Predictable storytelling that justgets by thanks to the lead’s ease and a supportingcast including Brandon T Jackson, Loretta Devine,Keith David, Terry Crews, Bill Bellamy, Mike Epps,Charlie Murphy, T-Pain (AKA Faheem Najn) and IceCube, also an executive producer — one of thefilm’s 11(!) producers. Rated PG-13. “PHINEAS AND FERB: A VERY PERRYCHRISTMAS” (Walt Disney Studios HomeEntertainment): The titular twosome (voicedby Vincent Parsella and Thomas Sangster) arepressed into service in order to save Christmasin this holiday-themed DVD ($19.99 retail),based on the animated, award-winning DisneyChannel children’s series. THE SEARCH FOR SANTA PAWS (WaltDisney Studios Home Entertainment): From thepropagators of the Air Bud film series, the talkingdogs from Santa Buddies return for anotherholiday-themed, G-rated family comedy. TheDVD retails for $29.99, the DVD/Blu-ray combofor $39.99. “THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN”: THECOMPLETE COLLECTION (Time Life): A bigDVD boxed set ($239.95 retail) consisting of all100 episodes from the entire run (1974-’78) ofthe popular, prime-time ABC-TV science-fictionseries starring Lee Majors as astronaut SteveAustin, who is “rebuilt” with state-of-the-artbionic technology after surviving a cataclysmiccrash, at a cost of $6 million. The original pilotfilms and the subsequent reunion movies fromthe 1990s are also included. Available directly(and exclusively) from THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE (WaltDisney Studios Home Entertainment): NicolasCage (also an executive producer) plays anancient wizard who must tutor a geeky collegestudent (Jay Baruchel) in the ways of magic,lest mystical mayhem run rampant in midtownManhattan. This heavily-hyped, mega-budgetJerry Bruckheimer production was clearlydesigned as a franchise, but audiences weren’tbuying this overblown, effects-laden combinationof silly slapstick and shtick. Yet anothermovie in which Cage’s hairstyle seems to domost of the acting, despite a cast that includesMonica Bellucci, Alice Krige and Alfred Molina,who endured two Bruckheimer bombs (thisand Prince of Persia) last summer. For those whocare, this is available as a single-disc DVD ($29.99retail), a DVD/Blu-ray combo ($39.99 retail), or athree-disc combo ($44.99 retail). Rated PG. “TONIGHT: 4 DECADES FROM ‘THETONIGHT SHOW’ STARRING JOHNNYCARSON” (R2 Entertainment): A mammoth,self-explanatory, 15-DVD boxed set ($119.99retail) highlighting some of the most memorableshows from Johnny Carson’s 30-year stint onNBC-TV’s “The Tonight Show.” Guests include FrankSinatra, Peter Falk, Woody Allen, Albert Brooks,The Muppets, Muhammad Ali, Bette Midler, TheJackson 5, Don Rickles, Rodney Dangerfield, BurtReynolds, Dom DeLuise, David Letterman, SteveMartin and many others.