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by Mark Burger

DVD Pick of the week: CORIOLANUS

The timelessness of William Shakespeare is fully evident in thisforceful, fiery, award-winning rendition, which marks a first-ratedirectorial debut for leading man Ralph Fiennes and a first-rateeffort by screenwriter John Logan to streamline the narrativewithout losing any resonance. This was one of 2011’s best films,but did not receive the theatrical exposure it deserved.

The text may be Shakespeare and the setting Rome, butthe trappings are unmistakably modern: News networks coverwarfare 24 hours a day while anchors and pundits discusseconomic crises and global strife, politicians rouse public supportthrough deception while making surreptitious deals thatdetermine the fate of nations. There’s plenty of symbolism tofeast on, and that much of the film was shot in Serbia — a regionrocked by war — lends a further relevance.

Fiennes’ Caius Martius “Coriolanus” is the hero of his people,having vanquished the enemy, yet his courage and ferocity will behis undoing. He’s very good at what he does, which is to conquerby force, but he’s very bad at what comes next, which is diplomacy.He’s a man of war, not of peace — and he’s certainly not a man ofthe people. He’s a sociopath, yet he knows it. He needs an enemyto justify his existence, and when banished from Rome, his enemybecomes the very nation he once fought for.

Fiennes has chosen a great cast to surround him: JessicaChastain as Coriolanus’ wife Virgilia, Vanessa Redgrave as hismother Volumnia (and what a pleasure it is to see Redgraveacting Shakespeare on screen), Gerard Butler as enemy-turnedallyTullus Aufidius, James Nesbitt and Paul Jesson as treacherouspoliticians, and especially Brian Cox as Menenius, that rarediplomat with a conscience… which ultimately proves hisundoing. Rated R.

ASTROS 50TH ANNIVERSARYCOLLECTOR’S EDITION (Major LeagueBaseball Productions/A&E Networks HomeEntertainment): A self-explanatory five-DVDboxed set ($49.95 retail) that marks the 50thbirthday of the Houston Astros baseballfranchise, including such noteworthy games asNolan Ryan’s fifth no-hitter in 1981, Mike Scott’sdivision-clinching no-hitter five years later, andmore.

THE BIG BANG (Anchor Bay Entertainment):Dangerous dames, accumulating corpses, andfrequent nods to Raymond Chandler (includingnarration) figure prominently in this latter-day,satirical film noir that explores Los Angeles’seedy underbelly. As the private eye enmeshedin dangerous doings, Antonio Banderas headsa great cast including Sam Elliott, Delroy Lindo,Autumn Reeser, James Van Der Beek, JimmiSimpson, Thomas Kretschmann, Bill Duke,William Fichtner and Snoop Dogg. The film isso steeped in its trappings, however, that it getslost in self-indulgence. In the end, this Bang fizzlesrather than sizzles, but it’s a nice try. Rated R.

BOATHOUSE DETECTIVES (MTI HomeVideo): Four pint-sized sleuths try to crack a dognappingring in writer/director Eric Hendershot’slight, low-budget family comedy.

CHAINED: CODE 207 (MTI Home Video): Inthe none-too-grand tradition of David Heavener,Tino Struckmann wrote, directed and stars inthis low-budget shoot-’em-up as an angry warveteran who goes on a one-man rampagewhen his wife (Jill Headrick) is abducted by aninternational sex ring.

CHARLOTTE RAMPLING: THE LOOK (KinoLorber): Fans of the award-winning actressCharlotte Rampling will undoubtedly enjoywriter/director Angelina Maccarone’s warm,worthy documentary, billed as “a self-portraitthrough others.”

DONALD GLOVER: WEIRDO (EntertainmentOne): The actor/rapper/funnyman headlines thisstand-up comedy special ($14.98 retail) originallybroadcast on Comedy Central.

“DROP DEAD DIVA”: THE COMPLETETHIRD SEASON (Sony Pictures HomeEntertainment): Brooke Elliott’s back as thebrilliant attorney with something extra, in all 13episodes from the 2011 season of the awardwinningLifetime comedy series. The three-DVDboxed set retails for $45.99.

“FANTASY ISLAND”: THE COMPLETESECOND SEASON (Shout! Factory): DebonairRicardo Montalban and diminutive HerveVillechaize welcome guests to the titledestination, in all 25 episodes from the 1978-’79 season of the long-running, primetime ABCseries. Guest stars include Ray Milland, LeslieNielsen, Carol Lynley, Christopher George, PeterGraves, Peter Lawford, Sonny Bono, Cornel Wilde,Stuart Whitman, Celeste Holm, Dan Rowan,Samantha Eggar, Cameron Mitchell, Desi ArnazJr., Red Buttons and a young Michelle Pfeiffer.The six-DVD boxed set retails for $39.97.

GONE (Summit Entertainment): A failedsuspense vehicle for Amanda Seyfried, playinga woman obsessed that whoever abducted herhas struck again, falls victim to a mechanical,contrived storyline. A wasted cast includesDaniel Sunjata, Michael Pare, Wes Bentley andKatherine Moennig, as four cops of varyingincompetence. Rated PG-13.

THE GREY (Universal Studios HomeEntertainment): Liam Neeson headlines JoeCarnahan’s violent, visceral thriller aboutsurvivors of a plane crash in Alaska who battlethe elements, ravenous wolves and sometimeseach other as they struggle to reach civilization.Occasionally heavy-handed but overall effective,with strong existential overtones. Rated R.

THE KANE FILES (Inception Media Group):Familiar but fast-moving thriller, with DrewFuller (in an award-winning performance) as aformer hit man who takes one last job — Uhoh!— to pay for his son’s heart transplant, andis subsequently double-crossed. Whitney Able(who looks a bit like Naomi Watts and DianeKruger) plays Fuller’s wife, while Ethan Embry(corrupt cop), William Atherton (nasty crimeboss) and William Devane (shifty FBI agent) chewthe scenery in support. Rated R.

LETHAL WEAPON COLLECTION (WarnerHome Video): A Blu-ray boxed set ($79.98) ofall four films in Richard Donner’s billion-dollaraction franchise, which paired Mel Gibsonand Danny Glover as daredevil Los Angelesdetectives. The first film (1987) was good,the second (‘89) even better, the third (‘92) acomedown, and the fourth (‘98) a self-indulgentdisaster — but all made money. The first filmearned an Oscar nomination for Best Sound andthe second a nomination for Best Sound EffectsEditing. All four films were rated R and featuredmusic by Eric Clapton and the late MichaelKamen.

LOVE NEVER DIES (Universal StudiosHome Entertainment): Andrew Lloyd Webberrevisits his record-breaking musical Phantomof the Opera with this follow-up, filmed inMelbourne and featuring the Australian cast.The cast includes Ben Lewis, Anna O’Byrne,Maria Mercedes, Simon Gleeson, DVD retails for$19.98, the Blu-ray for $26.98.

MADISON COUNTY (Image Entertainment):Writer/co-producer/director Eric England’slow-budget debut feature is an overly familiarshocker about college kids researching a seriesof murders in a hick town. Needless to say, theyshould’ve stayed home. A better-than-expectedfirst half is soon supplanted by the same old,same old in the second. Rated R.

MONICA & DAVID (Docurama Films/NewVideo): They’re young, they’re in love, and theyhave Down Syndrome. This award-winningdocumentary ($29.95 retail) chronicles the realliferomance of two people doing their bestto live independently, directed by first-timerAlexandra Codina (Monica’s cousin).

NORWEGIAN WOOD (China Lion/NewVideo): Rinko Kikuchi, Ken’ichi Matsuyama andnewcomer Kiko Mizuhara topline Tran AnhHung’s award-winning adaptation of HarukiMurakami’s international best-seller Noruweino Mori, about the relationship between threestudents in late-’60s Japan. In Japanese withEnglish subtitles. The DVD retails for $29.95.

RALPHIE MAY: TOO BIG TO IGNORE (ImageEntertainment): The “Last Comic Standing”finalist riffs on race, politics, his weight, andfamily life in this stand-up comedy special, whichretails for $14.98.

TITANIC’S FINAL MYSTERY (SmithsonianChannel/Inception Media Group): Tim Maltinhosts this documentary that delves into thelegend and legacy of the RMS Titanic, released inconjunction with the 100th anniversary of its illfatedmaiden voyage. The DVD retails for $14.98,the Blu-ray for $19.98.

“TREME”: THE COMPLETE SECONDSEASON (HBO Home Entertainment): Lifegoes on for the residents of New Orleans inthis award-winning HBO drama series whoseensemble cast includes Wendell Pierce (anactual New Orleans native), Clarke Peters, KhandiAlexander, Rob Brown, Kim Dickens, MelissaLeo, David Morse, Steve Zahn and ElizabethAshley. All 11 episodes from the 2011 seasonplus special features are available in the DVDboxed set ($59.99 retail) and the Blu-ray boxedset ($79.98 retail).

Mark Burger can be heard Fridaymornings on the “Two Guys NamedChris” radio show on Rock-92.© 2012, Mark Burger

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