video vault

by Mark Burger

DVD Pick of the week: ATTACK THE BLOCK

(Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

Hip hop meets sci-fi in writer/director Joe Cornish’s flashy, funky, cult-friendly debut feature. The film takes place one fateful night in and around a London housing block, when small meteors begin falling to earth. These aren’t ordinary meteors, but the first wave of an alien invasion. These extraterrestrial visitors are furry, fierce and fanged with glow-in-the-dark teeth — all the better to see who they’re eating!

It’s not long before the street kids who run roughshod over the neighborhood are forced to fight for that neighborhood, their very lives and possibly even the future of mankind. They’re Earth’s “first wave.”

Heading an appealing cast are Jodie Whitaker as a nursing student whose worries about being mugged soon become secondary, charismatic newcomer John Boyega as the teen gang leader unexpectedly thrust into heroism and Nick Frost, providing comic relief as the chubby, chummy resident drug dealer.

The DVD retails for $30.99, the Blu-ray for $35.99. Each contain a bevy of special features including audio commentaries and featurettes. Rated R.

BAD TEACHER (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Cameron Diaz embodies — and how! — the title character in this slight, trite, raunchy comedy that just earns a passing grade thanks to a likable cast including Lucy Punch, Jason Segel and former Diaz flame Justin Timberlake. Given its surprising box-office success, don’t be surprised if the studio calls school back into session. Rated R (also available in an unrated edition).

BATMAN: YEAR ONE (DC Entertainment/ Warner Home Video): The Caped Crusader wages war against crime in this animated DC Comics feature based on Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s origin story, published in 1987 by DC Comics. Ben McKenzie provides the voice for Bruce Wayne/Batman, with Bryan Cranston, Eliza Dushku, Katie Sackhoff, Alex Rocco and Jon Polito. The DVD retails for $19.98, the DVD/Bluray combo for $24.98.

CAPTAIN AMERICA & CAPTAIN AMERICA II: DEATH TOO SOON (Shout! Factory): Reb Brown plays the Marvel Comics superhero in a pair of made-for-TV movies originally broadcast by CBS in 1979. Heather Menzies and Steve Forrest co-star in the first film, Christopher Lee and Connie Sellecca in the second, with Len Birman in both. The double-feature DVD retails for $14.93.

CREEP CREEPERSIN’S FRANKENSTEIN (MVD Visual): Mary Shelley gets a makeover in this low-budget one-hour(!) rendition of the classic tale, with James Porter as a nerd who creates his own perfect woman (Kelly Kingsbury), except she hates him. Less avantgarde than avant-weird, with nods toward David Lynch and Abel Ferrara and clips from old horror movies. Creepersin wrote, directed, edited, produced and provides the voice of the “Trasmission” (misspelled in the credits), and his real-life wife (and co-producer) Nikki Wall plays Victor’s mother.

CRIME FICTION (Anthem Pictures): An encouraging feature debut for director Will Slocombe, starring Jonathan Eliot (who also penned the script) as a frustrated novelist who accidentally kills his girlfriend (Amy Sloan) then writes a bestselling book about it. This lowbudget black comedy gets a lot of mileage out of its concept and enthusiastic cast, including Christian Stolte as an arrogant best-selling novelist. Worth a look.

DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW (VCI Entertainment): The classic 1982 made-for-TV chiller makes its Blu-ray debut ($19.99 retail). Charles Durning is excellent as the leader of a small-town posse exonerated for killing a retarded man (Larry Drake) they thought responsible for harming a young girl, only to be haunted by the title specter a year later.

THE ECHO GAME (MTI Home Video): Alisha Seaton and Jeannie Bolet play a lesbian couple whose young daughter (Melissa Lee) possesses psychic powers in the ambitious and interesting, if not altogether successful thriller from firsttime producer/director Brian Feeney. Acted with conviction, which also helps. Rated R.

ELVIRA’S HAUNTED HILLS (Entertainment One): A special “enhanced” edition ($19.98 retail) of the lightweight — but top-heavy (ahem) — 2002 comedy in which Cassandra Peterson returns as “Elvira, the Mistress of the Dark,” trapped in a Carpathian castle with a loony lord (Richard O’Brien of Rocky Horror Picture Show fame) who’s convinced she’s the reincarnation of his dead wife. Fans have a head start, but this is hardly the worst way to kill time before Halloween. In addition, Entertainment One offers the latest installments of “Elvira’s Movie Macabre,” in which she hosts terrifying twin-bills: Scared to Death/Tormented and Lady Frankenstein/Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter. Each double-feature DVD retails for $14.98. Rated PG-13.

“GIGOLOS”: THE FIRST SEASON (Showtime Entertainment/CBS DVD/Paramount Home Entertainment): This DVD ($26.99 retail) contains all eight episodes from the inaugural 2011 season of the Showtime reality series following five real-life “men at work” in Las Vegas, timed to coincide with the premiere of season two.

GRANDVIEW, USA (CBS DVD/Paramount Home Entertainment): Randal Kleiser directed this modestly engaging 1984 comedy with C. Thomas Howell as a small-town teen with big dreams. A never-sexier Jamie Lee Curtis plays the owner of the demolition derby who hooks up with him, and an appealing cast includes Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Troy Donahue, William Windom, M. Emmet Walsh and John and Joan Cusack (as siblings). Rated R.

KILLER DOUBLE FEATURE: BAD DREAMS & VISITING HOURS (Shout! Factory): A DVD twin-killing ($14.97 retail) of ‘80s shockers released by Twentieth Century Fox: Writer/ director Andrew Fleming’s underappreciated 1988 feature debut Bad Dreams ( ) stars Jennifer Rubin, Bruce Abbott, Richard Lynch and the always-welcome Harris Yulin; and the coldblooded 1982 thriller Visiting Hours ( ) stars a slumming Lee Grant as a TV reported targeted by psychopath Michael Ironside, with Linda Purl and the ever-animated William Shatner (in quick-check mode) on the sidelines. Both films are rated R.

LEGO HERO FACTORY SAVAGE PLANET (LEGO Group/Warner Home Video): A featurelength fantasy ($14.97 retail) based on the popular Nicktoons Network animated series, in which warriors from the Hero Factory battle to save the world from total destruction. The voiceover cast includes Malcolm McDowell, Mark Hamill, Henry Winkler and John Schneider.

“LIE TO ME”: THE COMPLETE THIRD AND FINAL SEASON (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): It’s truth and/or consequences for Tim Roth and his team, in all 13 episodes

from the 2010-’11 season of the award-winning Fox Network mystery series. The DVD boxed set retails for $49.98.

“ROBOTECH”: THE COMPLETE ORIGINAL SERIES” (A&E Home Entertainment): A mammoth, 16-DVD boxed set ($99.95 retail) containing all 85 episodes from the animated sci-fi children’s series, which was adapted and re-edited from three different Japanese series’ and distributed internationally in syndication beginning in 1985. The story concerns the use of alien technology (“RoboTechnology,” hence the title) to defend the Earth against its enemies. Plenty of behind-the-scenes extras for “‘Tech Heads.”

TEENY TINY AND THE WITCH WOMAN… AND MORE SPOOKY HALLOWEEN STORIES! (Scholastic Storybook Treasures): A Halloweenthemed DVD collection ($14.95 retail) of children’s stories, including Maragaret Mahy’s The Boy With Two Shadows, Los Gatos Black on Halloween (narrated by Maria Conchita Alonso) and the title tale.

ZOMBIE (Blue Underground): A two-disc “ultimate edition” of Lucio Fulci’s infamous 1980 shocker, which was advertised with the tagline “We are going to eat you!” An outbreak of the living dead stretches from a Caribbean island to New York City, told in crude, sometimes evocative, frequently stomach-churning terms. The gore quotient is off the scale, which doubtless helped to make it an all-time cult classic. The squeamish are strongly forewarned. For the Fulci faithful, a masterwork. For others (including yours truly), a guilty pleasure. Bonus features include retrospective documentaries, trailers, radio spots, and more. The DVD retails for $29.98, the Blu-ray for $39.98.

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