video vault

by Mark Burger

DVD Pick of the week: THURGOOD

(HBO Home Entertainment)

Laurence Fishburne recreates his Tony-nominated role — scoring an Emmy nomination as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie — as Thurgood Marshall (1908-’93) in this filmed version of his one-man show, filmed at the Eisenhower Theatre at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.

Although he doesn’t physically resemble the real Marshall (nor did Sidney Poitier in a 1991 miniseries), Fishburne is such a commanding presence that it hardly matters, imparting the character with dignity, humanity and humor in sincere yet charismatic fashion. It’s fascinating to watch the actor adjust his physical movements as the years take their toll. It’s a quintessential tour de force turn.

The show, written by George Stevens Jr., is structured as a lecture on Marshall’s life, with the man himself recounting his fight for racial and social justice as a lawyer, at a time when Civil Rights and the NAACP were both in their infancy. In the 1960s, he would become the first black Solicitor General of the United States, and shortly thereafter be appointed to the Supreme Court by Lyndon Johnson, where he served for 25 years.

Thurgood is enlightening and educational, and best of all entertaining. The DVD retails for $26.98, the Blu-ray for $34.98.

1 IN THE GUN (MTI Home Video): Writer/ director Rolfe Kanefsky’s pedestrian film noir, with the underwhelming Steven Man as an artist whose affair with the wife (Katherine Randolph) of a wealthy businessman (Steven Bauer) leads to trouble. The climactic twist is pretty obvious early on. Nice to see Robert Davi and James Russo, even under these circumstances.


A DVD twin-bill ($16.98 retail) of little-seen ’70s films released by Twentieth Century Fox: Robert Mulligan’s seedy 1975 melodrama The Nickel Ride (**), an early screenplay by future Oscar winner Eric Roth, stars Jason Miller as a “key man” for the mob gripped by paranoia; John Frankenheimer’s misfired 1974 gangster spoof 99 and 44/100% Dead (**) stars Richard Harris as super-cool mob enforcer Harry Crown, caught up in a gang war waged by rival gangsters (Edmond O’Brien, in his last film, and Bradford Dillman). The cast also includes Chuck Connors (as a one-armed hit-man) and Ann Turkel (who married Harris in real life). Neither film succeeds, but both are interesting, and both rated PG.

“ARCHER”: SEASON 2 (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Spy-jinx reign supreme, in all 13 episodes from the 2011 season of the popular FX Network animated series that takes a cockeyed view at international espionage, with H. Jon Benjamin the voice of the title character, super-agent Sterling Archer. The DVD boxed set retails for $29.98, the Blu-ray boxed set for $39.99.

BLOOD JUNKIE (Troma Entertainment): An inspired low-budget horror spoof that marks a fun feature debut for writer/editor/producer/ director/co-cinematographer Drew Rosas, in which a group of ’80s teenagers on a camping trip encounter a murderous maniac wearing a gas mask. Lots of in-jokes, both toward the horror genre and the ’80s setting. Originally titled Rocky Trails. Rosas also plays a role and had a hand in the cinematography. Definite cult possibilities.

“BORED TO DEATH”: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON (HBO Home Entertainment): Jason Schwartzman returns as struggling writer Jonathan Ames, who slakes his thirst for pulp fiction by moonlighting as a private eye, in all eight episodes from the 2010 season of the award-winning HBO comedy/mystery series. Zach Galifianakis, Heather Burns and Ted Danson round out the regular cast, and guest stars include Kevin Bacon, Kristen Wiig, Olympia Dukakis and Oliver Platt. The boxed set retails for $39.98 (DVD) or $49.99 (Blu-ray).

DEAD EYES OPEN (Troma Entertainment):

All-purpose filmmaker Ralf Mollenhoff (writer, editor, cinematographer, producer and director) pays homage to Night of the Living Dead with his feature debut, in which a group of friends get lost in the German countryside and encounter the living dead. Grainy and cheap-looking (intentionally?), but aside from the novelty of being German, there’s nothing new here. George Romero, the original instigator of the zombie genre, puts in an amusing cameo as a scientist being interviewed on TV by Mollenhoff. In German with English subtitles.

FINAL DESTINATION 5 (Warner Home Video):

Death comes knocking yet again for a group of people who miraculously survived a bridge collapse but begin meeting with fatal accidents soon after. The cast includes Emma Bell, Nicholas D’Agosto, David Koechner, Courtney B. Vance and Tony Todd, back again as the mysterious mortician. Available as a single DVD ($28.98 retail) or a DVD/Blu-ray combo ($35.99 retail). Rated R.

“HOW TO MAKE IT IN AMERICA”: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (HBO Home Entertainment): The trials and tribulations of achieving success in New York’s fashion industry are dramatized in all eight episodes from the premiere 2010 season of the HBO series whose ensemble cast includes Bryan Greenberg, Lake Bell, Victor Rasuk, Eddie Kaye Thomas and Luis Guzman. The DVD boxed set retails for $39.98, the Blu-ray boxed set for $49.99.

“HUNG”: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON (HBO Home Entertainment): Thomas Jane plays a latter-day American gigolo in all 10 episodes from the 2010 season of the critically acclaimed HBO comedy series. The DVD boxed set retails for $39.98, the Blu-ray boxed set for $49.99.

IN THE NAME OF THE KING 2: TWO WORLDS (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Swords, sorcery and silliness abound in the latest Uwe Boll “epic,” a sequel (of sorts) to his 2007 fantasy. Dolph Lundgren plays a modern-day martial-arts instructor whisked back in time to save a kingdom as the “Chosen One.” Good for a few laughs, especially a miscast Locklyn Munro in a fright wig as a duplicitous king. Rated R.

JESSICKA RABID (Troma Entertainment):

Producer/screenwriter/editor/director Matthew Reel’s debut feature stars executive producer/ story writer Elskie McCain as a feral woman who turns the tables on her tormentors when she contracts rabies. Appropriately raw, with a few expressionistic touches, but also slow-moving and ugly.

NOT ANOTHER B MOVIE (Troma Entertainment): Originally titled Working Title, writer/producer/director John Wesley Norton’s scattershot satire stars Byron Thames as a

Hollywood screenwriter discussing show-biz with hack producers Larry Thomas and James Vallo (actually one of the producers). A few laughs. Also on hand: Ed Asner, Joe Estevez, Erin Moran, Reggie Bannster, Robert Z’dar, Erin Muir and Troma founder Lloyd Kaufman.

OFFICE OF THE DEAD (R2 Films): Corporate America is spoofed in writer/director/editor Matthew Chung’s feature debut, in which experiments in “psychokinetic therapy” give rise to a legion of zombies. Pretty light on gore but not bad. Spell-check note to filmmaker: There’s no A in “fugitive.”

SYMPATHY FOR DELICIOUS (Maya Entertainment): Mark Ruffalo co-stars and makes his directorial debut with this awardwinning drama starring screenwriter Christopher Thornton as a paraplegic disc jockey (his nickname is “Delicious,” hence the title) who discovers a talent for healing people. Uneven at times, but sincere, ambitious, and helped by a good cast: Laura Linney, Juliette Lewis, Orlando Bloom (overacting a storm as a would-be rock star), Noah Emmerich, James Karen and John Carroll Lynch. Ruffalo and Thornton were also producers. Rated R.

WORLD WAR II IN HD (A&E Networks):

A collector’s edition of the acclaimed documentaries originally broadcast by the History Channel, following 12 Americans and their personal experiences in World War II. The DVD boxed set retails for $59.95, the Blu-ray boxed set for $69.95. In addition, A&E Networks is releasing the “WWII in 3-D” on Blu-ray ($29.95 retail), which also details the history of World War II in self-explanatory fashion.

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