DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: LET ME IN
(Anchor Bay Entertainment)
The vampire genre gets a horrific, haunting and, yes, romantic makeover in this adaptation of John Ajvide Lindqvist’s international bestseller and the subsequent Swedish-language arthouse hit (titled Let the Right One In).
Adapted by director Matt Reeves, the story focuses on the growing relationship between Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee), a lonely and bullied 12-year-old boy, and Abby (Chloe Grace Moretz), the mysterious young girl who has recently moved into his apartment building with her guardian (Richard Jenkins). Abby, whose arrival coincides with a spate of strange killings, seems to come out only at night, yet she and Owen forge a friendship that becomes more complicated as events progress.
Although appropriately atmospheric and violent, as befits the horror genre, it’s in the tragic love story, beautifully played by Moretz and Smit-McPhee, that film finds its true heart. Few horror films in recent memory have achieved such touching moments as are found here.
Forget the teen angst of Twilight; Let Me In is the real deal — scarier, sharper, more evocative, more effective and powerful — yet it could not find an audience during its theatrical release. Cult status is not only assured, but demanded.
“CALIFORNICATION”: THE THIRD SEASON (CBS DVD/Paramount Home Entertainment): David Duchovny (also an executive producer) returns as the wayward authorturned-professor, in all 12 episodes from the 2009 season of the Emmy-winning Showtime comedy series, also starring Natasha McElhone, Eva Amurri, Embeth Davidtz, Kathleen Turner, Peter Gallagher and Rick Springfield (as himself). This DVD boxed set retails for $42.99.
THE GREEN HORNET (VCI Entertainment):
Decades before Van Williams and Bruce Lee on the small screen, to say nothing of Seth Rogen and Jay Chou, the popular radio character made his big-screen bow in serial format: “The Green Hornet Original Serials Collector’s Set” ($19.99 retail) includes the 1940 serial The Green Hornet and its 1941 sequel The Green Hornet Strikes Again!; “The Green Hornet Movie Edition” ($14.99 retail) is the feature edit of the original serial; and the 15-chapter The Green Hornet Strikes Again! is available separately ($9.99 retail).
THE HAUNTING OF AMELIA (MTI Home Video): Brendan Fehr plays a young man haunted by the death of his girlfriend 10 years before in this award-winning but slow-moving psychological drama that marks the feature debut of editor/director AD Salvo. Originally titled The Other Side of the Tracks, this is a nice try that doesn’t quite work. Rated PG-13.
THE HESSEN CONSPIRACY (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Billy Zane, doing his Bogart impression and Lyne Renee play American officers who pillage the spoils of war in post-WW II Germany in this flat, old-hat espionage thriller, originally titled The Hessen Affair. Nicholas Meyer (!) was one of the screenwriters.
LEGENDS OF THE CANYON (Image Entertainment): Crosby, Stills & Nash, the Mamas
and the Papas, Joni Mitchell, Buffalo Springfield, the Byrds and even the Doors are among the classic rock groups who first found success and fame in California’s Laurel Canyon during the 1960s, and whose stories are told in producer/director Jon Brewer’s easy-going rock ‘n’ roll documentary narrated by acclaimed photographer Henry Diltz, who encountered them all.
SECRETARIAT (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): A horse is a horse, of course, of course… but this horse was something special, winning the Triple Crown in 1973. Diane Lane and John Malkovich star as owner and trainer, respectively, but although this film is rousing and well-made, it’s also predictable and very much by-the-numbers. Rated PG.
“THE SECRET LIFE OF THE AMERICAN TEENAGER”: VOLUME FIVE (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): A DVD boxed set ($39.99 retail) containing the first 14 episodes from the 2010 season of the award-winning ABC Family drama series, featuring Shailene Woodley, Francia Raisa, Ken Baumann, Daren Kagasoff and Molly Ringwald.
STONE (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Winston- Salem’s own Angus MacLachlan penned this moody meditation on guilt and retribution, starring Robert De Niro as a parole officer who gets mixed up with a hardened convict (Edward Norton) and the convict’s wife (a surprisingly solid Milla Jovovich), who’ll do almost anything to get her husband released. Unconventional and sometimes challenging, this deserved a better reception. Rated R.
“THIRTYSOMETHING”: THE COMPLETE FINAL SEASON (Shout! Factory): The muchacclaimed prime-time ABC drama series about seven friends in Philadelphia comes to an end, in all 23 episodes from the 1990-’91 season. The ensemble cast includes Mel Harris, Timothy
Busfield, Peter Horton, Melanie Mayron, Polly Draper and real-life husband-and-wife Ken Olin and Patricia Wettig. Winner of three Emmy awards including Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series (Wettig) and Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (Busfield), with five additional nominations including Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (David Clennon), Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Mayron), and Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series (Eileen Brennan). This six-DVD boxed set retails for $59.97.
“THE UNITED STATES OF TARA”: THE SECOND SEASON (CBS DVD/Paramount Home Entertainment): Toni Collette returns as the suburban matriarch plagued by multiple personalities, in all 12 episodes from the 2010 season of the Showtime comedy series, which earned two Emmy nominations including one for Collette as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series. Steven Spielberg and series creator Diablo Cody are among the executive producers. This two-DVD boxed set retails for $49.99 (UNTITLED) (Screen Media Films): New York’s trendy art scene is the backdrop for this arch romantic comedy with Adam Goldberg as an avant garde composer and Marley Shelton as a gallery owner. A few amusing digs, but this unravels before too long. Lack of chemistry between the leads may be the point, but it doesn’t make the film run smoother. Rated R.
“VCI ‘BEST OF!’ BRITISH CLASSICS” (VCI Entertainment): Double-feature DVDs of rare British films: “Volume 1” includes the Boulting Brothers’ 1939 courtroom drama Inquest, based on a Michael Barringer play, and 1943’s Tomorrow We Live (released in the US as At Dawn We Die); “Volume 2” includes 1959’s Naked Fury (released in the US five years later as The Pleasure Lovers) and writer/director Terry Bishop’s 1960 thriller Cover
Girl Killer, starring comic actor Harry H. Corbett in a rare dramatic role. Each DVD retails for $14.99.
“VEGA$”: THE SECOND SEASON, VOLUME 1 (CBS DVD/Paramount Home Entertainment): Robert Urich’s back in action as Dan Tanna, Fun City’s coolest private eye, in the first 11 episodes from the 1979-’80 season of the primetime ABC crime drama. The series earned its only Emmy nomination that season, for Outstanding Achievement in Graphic Design and Title Sequences. This three-DVD boxed set retails for $39.99.
A WOMAN, A GUN AND A NOODLE SHOP (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Director Zhang Yimou (or Yimou Zhang, for those who prefer) offers a quirky, colorful take on the Coen Brothers’ 1984 debut Blood Simple — replete with adultery, betrayal and murder — except set in feudal China. In Mandarin with English subtitles. Rated R.
WUSA (Olive Films): Paul Newman produced and stars in this weird, unsubtle 1970 adaptation of Robert Stone’s best-seller, a political satire about a hard-drinking drifter who becomes a disc-jockey for a right-wing radio network in New Orleans. Joanne Woodward (Mrs. Newman, of course), not at her best, plays the emotionally fragile woman he shacks up with, and an incredible cast also includes Laurence Harvey, Pat Hingle, Cloris Leachman, Don Gordon, Robert Quarry, Moses Gunn, Wayne Rogers and a perennially twitchy Anthony Perkins. Scripted by Stone himself and directed by Stuart Rosenberg, who never gets a handle on the material. Newman once called this “the most significant film I’ve ever made, and the best.” Audiences and critics, however, unanimously disagreed. Rated PG-13.
Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2011, Mark Burger