video vault

by Mark Burger

DVD Pick of the week: The Lincoln Lawyer (LionsGate Home Entertainment)

Matthew McConaughey is ideally cast in this adaptation of Michael Connelly’s best-seller, playing Los Angeles legal eagle Mick Haller, so nicknamed “the Lincoln Lawyer” because his Lincoln Continental, replete with trusty driver Earl (Laurence Mason), serves as his law office.

While defending Beverly Hills playboy Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe, oozing arrogance) on an attempted-murder charge, Mick’s assured resolve begins to crack. There’s more to this case than meets the eye, and Mick soon realizes that he’s become a pawn in a deadly game, with both his career and life thrown into jeopardy.

Part courtroom thriller and part whodunit, there’s a strong cast on hand: Marisa Tomei (as Mick’s ex-wife, herself an attorney), a shaggy William H. Macy, John Leguizamo, Bob Gunton, Michael Pena, Frances Fisher, Bryan Cranston, Michael Pare, Katherine Moennig, Trace Adkins and Josh Lucas, sparring well with McConaughey as the prosecutor.

McConaughey sometimes coasts on charm and good looks alone (Fool’s Gold, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past), but here enjoys a more substantive role and gives one of his best performances. If this is the first in a potential big-screen franchise – Connelly has penned subsequent Haller novels – it’s a good start. Rated R.

ALSO Available

BENDING ALL THE RULES (LionsGate Home Entertainment): A tepid romantic comedy with Colleen Porch as a woman torn between two men (David Gail and Bradley Cooper). Filmed in Tampa, Fla. in 2002, this is obviously being released now to capitalize on Cooper’s fame. That’s local actress Ashlee Payne (married to local actor Burgess Jenkins) in a small role. Rated R.

THE BEST OF ‘SESAME STREET’ SPOOFS: VOLUME 1 & 2 (Sesame Workshop/Warner Home Video): A selection of film and TV spoofs as “interpreted” by the world-famous Muppets on the long-running, Emmy Award-winning children’s series, designed to both educate and entertain. The DVD retails for $19.98.

THE CONSPIRATOR (LionsGate Home Entertainment): This disappointing fact-based historical drama recounts the story of Mary Surratt (Robin Wright), accused of conspiring with John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of President Lincoln. A potentially explosive premise becomes a missed opportunity in what is easily one of the more disappointing efforts from director Robert Redford. James McAvoy, Kevin Kline, Evan Rachel Wood, Danny Huston, Alexis Bledel, Colm Meaney, Tom Wilkinson and a seriously out-of-place Justin Long round out a mostly-subdued cast. Rated PG-13.

DAS BOOT (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): A special-edition two-disc Bluray ($34.95 retail) that boasts both the theatrical cut and the director’s extended version of Wolfgang Petersen’s superb 1981 World War II drama focusing on the crew of a German U-boat. An international box-office hit that propelled Petersen and leading actor Jurgen Prochnow (superb as the Captain) to stardom. Absolutely riveting. Six Academy Award nominations including two for Petersen (Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay), Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Sound and Best Sound Effects Editing. Rated R.

HEMINGWAY’S GARDEN OF EDEN (LionsGate Home Entertainment): It’s long been thought that Ernest Hemingway’s final novel — not his best, by the way — was unfilmable, and director John Irvin’s ill-conceived adaptation proves it. Mena Suvari (fetching but badly miscast) and Jack Huston play a young couple entranced by an exotic stranger (Caterina Murino), when they’re not changing hairstyles. Occasionally overheated but frequently underbaked. Matthew Modine, Carmen Maura and Richard E. Grant drop in briefly. Rated R.

MUAY THAI FIGHTER (LionsGate Home Entertainment): An award-winning martial-arts crime drama, in which a three childhood friends find their loyalties tested when they participate in an underground tournament. Overlong at nearly two hours, this does admittedly pick up in the second half and even throws in a Martin Scorsese homage. Rated R.

“OUTCASTS” (BBC America): This eight-episode BBC miniseries is set in the future, when Earthlings attempt to colonize a distant planet and establish their own civilization after the Earth becomes uninhabitable. The ensemble cast includes Liam Cunningham, Eric Mabius, Hermione Norris, Jamie Bamber, Daniel Mays, Amy Manson and Ashley Walters. The DVD boxed set retails for $34.98, the

REPO CHICK (CAV Distributing): Alex Cox revisits his 1984 cult classic Repo Man (sort of) with this shapeless, self-indulgent farce starring Jaclyn Jonet in the title role, along with Rosanna Arquette, Miguel Sandoval, Karen Black, Chloe Webb (in her biggest role in years), Robert Beltran, Xander Berkeley, Olivia Barash (from the original Repo Man) and Cox himself in a hammy cameo. Not so much quirky as desperate, with weird CGI effects and miniatures. Cox used to make interesting offbeat films, now he just makes bad offbeat films.

SCREAM OF THE BANSHEE (LionsGate Home Entertainment): College professor Lauren Holly unwittingly unleashes the malevolent monster of Irish folklore in this so-so shocker featuring a few gory jolts and the always-welcome Lance Henriksen. Rated R.

SESAME STREET: 20 YEARS AND STILL COUNTING (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Originally broadcast in 1989 and narrated by Bill Cosby, the warm, affectionate documentary traces the history of one of the most beloved and acclaimed children’s series’ in television history, featuring appearances by the great Jim Henson, Ray Charles, Placindo Domingo and, of course, the Muppets. After more than 40 years, “Sesame Street” is still going strong.

SPY KIDS TRILOGY (LionsGate Home Entertainment): To commemorate the release of Robert Rodriguez’s new Spy Kids 4, all three of the original films are being released on Bluray, each retailing for $19.99. Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara play the title characters, with Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino as their equally adventurous parents. All three films

THE TASK (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Six reality-TV contestants must spend the night in an abandoned, supposedly haunted penitentiary. Guess what happens next? A hohum spook show that might have worked as part of an anthology rather than dragged out to feature length. Rated R.

“TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES”: THE COMPLETE SEASON 9 (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Those “heroes in a halfshell” are back in action, in all eight episodes from the 1995 season of the long-running animated adventure series, which confounded many (including yours truly) by becoming a multimillion dollar franchise, spawning spin-offs, video games, and even a series of live-action movies — all of which I tried to avoid. This DVD boxed set retails for $14.98

“TOP GEAR 16” (BBC America): Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May hit the road in all 6 episodes from the 2011 season of the long-running, award-winning BBC series exploring the wonderful world of automobiles. An international smash, the series has inspired numerous spinoffs, including a recent American version. Available on DVD ($24.98 retail) or Bluray ($29.99 retail). 

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