video vault

by Mark Burger


(Image Entertainment)

This sleek and stylish crime series, which ran 1986-’88 on NBC, never achieved the ratings success of executive producer Michael Mann’s “Miami Vice” but nevertheless had a fervent fan base. Set in the early 1960s, the storyline is not dissimilar from “The Untouchables”: Hard-boiled Chicago detective Mike Torello (Dennis Farina) and his team (including Bill Smitrovich and Bill Campbell) wage an ongoing war against fast-rising mafioso Ray Luca (Anthony Denison). David Abrams (Stephen Lang) was the crusading prosecutor also gunning for Luca. In the second (and last) season, the story shifted to Las Vegas, which only enhanced the noir-ish ambiance. Crime Story had style to burn, as well as tough talk, vivid action, and memorable characters. Farina had actually been a Chicago cop for 20 years, and this launched his acting career. Notable guest stars included Kevin Spacey, Julia Roberts, Gary Sinise, Michael Madsen, Stanley Tucci, Ving Rhames, Eric Bogosian, Ray Sharkey, Deborah Harry, Miles Davis and Pam Grier (in a recurring role). The show also put Del Shannon’s 1961 hit “Runaway,” a revised version of which served as the theme song, back on the charts. This 25th-anniversary DVD boxed set ($29.98 retail) includes all 44 episodes plus the feature-length pilot, directed by Abel Ferrara.

“AMAZONIA: HEALING WITH SACRED PLANTS” (True Mind): This self-explanatory self-help DVD, hosted by noted author and psychologist Alberto Villoldo, retails for $19.98.

“ARMY WIVES”: THE COMPLETE FIFTH SEASON (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): Life at Fort Marshall continues for the title ladies (and the men in their lives), in all 13 episodes from the 2011 season of the award-winning Lifetime drama series whose regular cast includes Catherine Bell, Kim Delaney, Sally Pressman, Brigid Branagh, Wendy Davis and Drew Fuller. The three-DVD boxed set retails for $39.99.

DEAR SANTA (Image Entertainment): Jason Priestley directed this featherweight yuletide time-killer, with Amy Acker as a spoiled shopaholic who comes across a letter to Santa written by a little girl (Emma Duke). When she tries to make the girl’s Christmas dream come true, she meets the girl’s widowed father (David Haydn-Jones) and …

CLASH OF EMPIRES (Image Entertainment): Snarling warriors, clanking swords, macho posturing and GCI effects galore in this hoary melodrama about war between Rome, China and Malaysia in 120 AD.

DRAGON TATTOO TRILOGY: EXTENDED EDITION (Music Box Films Home Entertainment): With the American adaptation of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo opening this month, this homevideo collection includes the full versions of the original Swedish versions of Stieg Larsson’s bestselling Millennium Trilogy: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, all of which star Michael Nyqvist as journalist Mickael Blomkvist and Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander. The DVD boxed set retails for $59.95, the Blu-ray boxed set for $79.95. In Swedish with English subtitles.

THE FAMILY TREE (Entertainment One): A dysfunctional family dominates this all-star black comedy featuring Dermot Mulroney, Hope Davis, Christina Hendricks, Selma Blair, Gabrielle Anwar, Chi McBride, Keith Carradine, Jane Seymour, Shad “Bow Wow” Moss, Max Thieriot, Brittany Robertson and Madeline Zima. The DVD retails for $24.98, the Blu-ray for $29.98, Rated R.

“FARSCAPE”: THE COMPLETE SERIES BLU- RAY EDITION” (A&E Home Entertainment): What it says is what it is, a Blu-ray boxed set ($199.95 retail) of all 88 episodes from the 1999-2003 run of the award-winning sci-fi series, originally broadcast by the BBC and then SyFy in the US, starring Ben Browder as an Earth astronaut catapulted into a distant galaxy. Bonus features include audio commentaries, documentaries and behindthe-scenes footage.

FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis headline this romantic comedy in the title roles, with all-star support: Emma Stone, Patricia Clarkson, Woody Harrelson, Richard Jenkins and Andy Samberg. Available on DVD ($30.99 retail), Blu-ray ($35.99 retail), or as a DVD/Blu-ray combo ($40.99 retail). Rated R.

THE LEDGE (IFC Films/MPI Media Group):

Police detective Terrence Howard tries to prevent suicidal Charlie Hunnam from taking a fatal leap, while Liv Tyler, Patrick Wilson and Christopher Gorham hover on the sidelines. The DVD retails for $24.98, the Blu-ray for $29.98. Rated R.

“LOOK”: SEASON 1 (Image Entertainment): Filmmaker Adam Rifkin adapts his 2009 film of the same name for this voyeuristic Showtime series, in which all the characters’ actions are conveyed entirely from the vantage point of surveillance cameras. This DVD contains all 11 episodes from the premiere 2010-’11 season and retails for $24.98.

MICHAEL McDONALD: LIVE/A TRIBUTE TO MOTOWN LIVE (Image Entertainment): The Grammy-winning singer/songwriter and veteran of both Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers performs in a pair of concerts available on one DVD ($14.98 retail), joined by the likes of Toni Braxton, Billy Preston, Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson, and fellow Doobies Tom Johnston and Patrick Simmons.

MR. POPPER’S PENGUINS (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Jim Carrey plays Mr. Popper, who inherits six CGI penguins, in this updated adaptation of the award-winning 1938 novel. Carrey brings his customary energy to the proceedings, but he’s otherwise stranded in this painfully predictable, terminally cutesy family comedy. Rated PG.

“NICK DI PAOLO: RAW NERVE” (Image Entertainment): Radio host and two-time Emmy nominee Nick Di Paolo brings his standup act to Showtime in this comedy special, retailing on DVD for $14.98.

OFFICIAL 2011 WORLD SERIES FILM (Major League Baseball Productions/A&E Home Entertainment): Jon Hamm narrates this documentary tracing the run of the St. Louis Cardinals’ to secure their 11th World Series title, besting the Texas Rangers in seven games. Both the DVD ($29.95 retail) and the Blu-ray ($34.95 retail) include bonus features for the Redbird faithful. MLB/A&E is also releasing the eight-DVD boxed set ($79.95 retail) of “St. Louis Cardinals 2011 World Series Collector’s Edition,” which includes the full broadcasts of all seven World Series games plus a bonus disc.

RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): How the apes initially gained intelligence and came to power is the crux of this well made, exciting prequel/reboot of the popular science-fiction franchise, with Andy Serkis the standout as the principal primate, Caesar. The human contingent includes James Franco, John Lithgow, Brian Cox and Freida Pinto, but it’s the monkeys who make the movie. Rated PG-13.

“TRANFORMERS PRIME: DARKNESS RISING” (Hasbro/Shout! Factory): The massive, mechanized warriors return to wage war in this feature version of the animated five-part miniseries originally broadcast on the Hub, and now available on DVD ($14.97 retail), replete with bonus content.

“UFC: ULTIMATE FIGHT COLLECTION 2011 EDITION” (Ultimate Fighting Championship/Anchor Bay Entertainment): A mammoth, 20-DVD collection ($134.98 retail) boasting 170 fights including Lesnar vs. Velasquez, Silva vs. Belfort, “Shogun” vs. Jones, and many more.

“THE WILD THORNBERRYS”: SEASON 2, PART 1 (Shout! Factory): A two-DVD collection ($19.93 retail) featuring the first 11 episodes from the 1999-2000 season of the awardwinning, animated Nickelodeon children’s series about a family of adventurers who travel the globe, featuring the voices of Lacey Chabert and Tim Curry.

WINNIE THE POOH (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): The beloved bear and his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood, immortalized in AA Milne’s classic children’s stories, returns to the screen in this G-rated animated feature narrated by John Cleese, available as a single DVD ($29.99 retail), a DVD/Blu-ray combo ($39.99 retail), or a threedisc combo ($44.99 retail).

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