video vault

by Mark Burger

DVD Pick of the week: Megan is Missing (Anchor Bay Entertainment)

The topic of internet predators is given vivid, compelling treatment by first-time writer/director Michael Goi in this ferociously effective thriller that goes beyond exploitation into a darker, more unsettling realm.

Filmed, remarkably, in eight days, the film follows suburban teens Megan (Rachel Quinn) and Amy (Amber Perkins). Megan’s the popular, impetuous one. Amy’s the unpopular, dowdy one. They’re best friends and they spend a lot of time on-line, and it’s there that Megan first begins communicating with smooth-talking Josh (Dean Waite).

Megan decides to meet Josh one night, and vanishes.

With the community in an uproar, Amy embarks on her own investigation. Then she disappears.

The entire film is conveyed through webcam images, video feeds and TV broadcasts, lending it an overwhelming voyeuristic tone. Only the audience is privy to all the footage, making the viewer feel almost complicit in what is taking place onscreen, which soon becomes horrific in the extreme.

Megan is Missing is a difficult movie to watch and recommend, yet it’s also an important one. Its point is not to be taken lightly: Sometimes the hubris or idealism of adolescence is no match for the more insidious forces at large. This sort of thing does happen. That this story was based on actual cases makes it that much more harrowing.

ALSO Available

ABOVE US THE WAVES (VCI Entertainment): Director Ralph Thomas’ outstanding, fact-based 1955 outing about the British Navy’s “midget sub” campaign to thwart the Germans in the North Atlantic during World War II. A top cast includes John Mills, Donald Sinden, John Gregson, James Robertson Justice, Anthony Newley and Theodore Bikel. A must for WWII buffs, based on the international best-seller by Charles ET Warren and James D Benson.

BIUTIFUL (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Javier Bardem is in top form, and earned an Academy Award nomination as Best Actor, in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s powerful (if overlong) drama, playing a small-time hustler in Barcelona trying to put his affairs in order when he is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Additional Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. In Spanish with English subtitles. Rated R.

FALL DOWN DEAD (Image Entertainment): Competently made but uninspired chiller with serial killer Udo Kier stalking single mom Dominique Swain (and others) in an office building on Christmas Eve. Die Hard it ain’t. Also on hand: David Carradine, Mehmet Gunsur, R. Keith Harris and Lexi DiBenedetto. Filmed in beautiful downtown Winston-Salem (in 2006, actually). Rated R. (For a related story on the making of Fall Down Dead, click HERE.)

FOR COLORED GIRLS (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Tyler Perry adapts the awardwinning play, based on Ntozake Shange’s poetry, for this award-winning, all-star ensemble drama starring Janet Jackson, Kimberly Elise, Macy Gray, Thandie Newton, Anika Noni Rose, Kerry Washington and Whoopi Goldberg. Available as a DVD ($29.98 retail) or a DVD/Bluray combo ($39.99 retail). Rated R.

HIGHWATER (Image Entertainment): Surf’s up for Kelly Slater, Andy Irons, Sunny Garcia and John John Florence as they compete for surfing’s Triple Crown in this documentary written and directed by Dana Brown, available on DVD ($27.97 retail) or Blu-ray ($29.97 retail).

HYENAS (LionsGate Home Entertainment): It’s no laughing matter for Costas Mandylor, Christa Campbell and Meshach Taylor in writer/ producer/director Eric Weston’s patchy shocker about human/hyena hybrids on the prowl. Lame CGI effects. Rated R.

JUST GO WITH IT (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): This latter-day riff on Cactus Flower stars Adam Sandler (who also produced) as a successful dentist who has assistant and single mother Jennifer Aniston pose as his ex-wife to woo a comely lovely (Charlotte’s Brooklyn Decker in her screen debut). Picturesque Hawaiian locations, but pretty lightweight by any standard — although less painful than one might have feared. Also on hand: Dave Matthews, Rachel Dratch, Kevin Nealon, Heidi Montag, Andy Roddick (Decker’s real-life husband) and an unbilled Nicole Kidman, who actually gets most of the laughs. Available as a single DVD ($28.95 retail), a Blu-ray ($34.95 retail), or a DVD/Blu-ray combo ($38.96 retail). Rated PG-13.

LEGEND OF THE FIST (Well Go USA): Donnie Yen and director Andrew Lau team up for this martial-arts extravaganza dramatizing the exploits of the legendary hero Chen Zhen in 1920s China. Shu Qi co-stars. Available as a single DVD ($24.98 retail), a DVD special edition ($29.98 retail), a DVD/Blu-ray combo ($29.98 retail), or a Blu-ray collector’s edition ($32.88 retail).

MADAGASCAR (BBC Worldwide): Not to be confused with the animated comedies, this BCC Earth documentary follows renowned naturalist Sir David Attenborough (brother of Richard) as he explores the mysteries and magic of the fourth largest island in the world, available as a two-DVD boxed set ($29.98 retail) or a Blu-ray boxed set ($34.99 retail).

THE MALTA STORY (VCI Entertainment): Alec Guinness plays a photographer on combat assignment in 1942 Malta who unexpectedly finds romance (with Muriel Pavlow) in this 1953 World War II melodrama co-starring Jack Hawkins, Flora Robson, Renee Asherson and Anthony Steel. Interesting to see Guinness as a conventional leading man, but the wartime action and soap-opera trappings tend to undercut each other.

“MIDNIGHT IS A PLACE” (VCI Entertainment): A two-DVD boxed set ($39.99 retail) featuring all 13 episodes from the 1977 British television series based on Joan Aiken’s popular mystery novel, with Maxine Gordon and Simon Gipps-Kent as children forced to fend for themselves on the streets of London after the death of their guardian. Ron Moody, William Squire, David Collings and Erik Chitty (in his final role) round out the cast.

PASSION PLAY (Image Entertainment): Screenwriter Mitch Glazer’s directorial debut is a self-important, pseudo-parable (in a David Lynch vein) starring Mickey Rourke as a downand-out jazz musician who becomes transfixed by a woman (Megan Fox) who possesses actual wings. Bill Murray(!) plays a gangster who wants her for himself, while Kelly Lynch, Rory Cochrane, Brian Doyle-Murray and Robert Wisdom wander through. Weird, but not in a good way. The actors try. Rourke didn’t help the film’s cause by bad-mouthing it in interviews. Rated R.

SEA OF SAND (VCI Entertainment): Richard Attenborough, Michael Craig and John Gregson wage war against Rommel’s tank corps in the deserts of North Africa, in director Guy Green’s effective, fact-based 1958 World War II drama, filmed in location in Libya and released in the US as Desert Patrol. A good cast includes Percy Herbert, Ray McAnally and Barry Foster. This was reportedly Green’s personal favorite of his films — and he made some good ones (A Patch of Blue, The Mark).

“SPIDER-WOMAN: AGENT OF SWORD” (Marvel Knights Animation/Shout! Factory): A special-edition DVD ($14.97 retail) of the animated Marvel Comics mini-series, created by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev, depicting the adventures of a female superhero.

“THE WILD THORNBERRYS”: SEASON ONE (Shout! Factory): The award-winning animated Nickelodeon children’s series about a family of globe-trotting adventurers, makes its DVD debut with this four-disc boxed set ($29.93 retail) featuring all 20 episodes from the inaugural 1999 season. The regular voiceover cast includes Tim Curry, Danielle Harris, Lacey Chabert and Flea (of the Red Hot Chili Peppers).

Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2011, Mark Burger