Mark Burger’´s VIDEO VAULT
BEING THERE (Warner Home Video): A 30 th -anniversary special edition of director Hal Ashby’s wonderful, one-of-a-kind 1979 comedy, based on Jerzy Kosinski’s novel and adapted by Kosinski himself, with Peter Sellers in his last great performance… and perhaps the greatest of his entire career. It was a role he coveted since he first read the novel, and play it he did — to absolute perfection, earning an Academy Award nomination as best actor. Sellers doesn’t so much play the role of Chance, a simple-minded gardener, as transform completely into the character. After being turned out when his employer dies, Chance — whose only exposure to the outside world his entire life has been via television — embarks on the Great American Adventure, one that will see him unwittingly become one of the most powerful men in the world. Truly, this is the story of “Chance.” Sellers’ beguiling performance dominates the proceedings, but there’s splendid work from Shirley MacLaine, Richard Dysart, Richard Basehart, the great Jack Warden (as the president) and Melvyn Douglas, who won the Oscar as best supporting actor for his performance as MacLaine’s ailing billionaire husband. (If their palatial home looks familiar, it should: It’s the Biltmore Estate in Asheville.) Steeped in irony but never cynical, Being There is close to perfection. If anything, it’s just as timely now than it was 30 years ago. The final scene is a gem — one of many. Rated PG. ****
ALSO ON DVD BEEPER (Velocity Home Entertainment): While attending a medical conference in India, the young son of a widowed geneticist (Ed Quinn) is kidnapped — sending Dad on a desperate search to find him. This by-the-numbers thriller has a few intense moments and a pretty good third-act car chase, but slow pacing dooms it. Also with Joey Lauren Adams (totally miscast) and Harvey Keitel (as a drug dealer named Zolo!). Rated R. *’½
COMIC BOOKS UNBOUND (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Film critic Richard Roeper narrates this enjoyable documentary that traces the history of Hollywood comic-book movies, featuring interviews with the likes of Robert Downey Jr., Edward Norton, Selma Blair, Richard Donner, Guillermo Del Toro and, naturally, Stan Lee. ***
“THE DUKES OF HAZZARD” – TV DOUBLE FEATURE (Warner Home Video): Fans of the popular TV series (which ran 1979-’85 on CBS-TV) will doubtless revel in this twin-bill of made-for-TV reunion movies: In 1997, there was The Dukes of Hazzard: Reunion (**), which reunited the entire surviving cast (John Schneider, Tom Wopat, Catherine Bach, James Best, Sonny Shroyer, Ben Jones and Denver Pyle), with guest star Stella Stevens and Don Williams playing The Balladeer; and the 2000 follow-up The Dukes of Hazzard: Hazzard in Hollywood (**) in which the boys take Tinseltown by storm and run afoul of Russian mobsters (!). Mac Davis plays the Balladeer this time out, and the film is dedicated to Pyle (“Uncle Jesse”) who’d died in the interim. Both of these films, while hardly great, are better than the 2005 feature film. This special-edition DVD retails for $24.98.
THE EXPRESS (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): Wellrendered sports bio-pic dramatizing the all-too-brief life and career of Ernie “The Express” Davis (Rob Brown), the first black football player to win the Heisman Trophy. Touching without being overly sentimental, this didn’t find the audience it deserved to. Nice work too from Dennis Quaid as Syracuse coach Ben Schwartzwalder. Rated PG. ***
FANTASTIC FLESH: THE ART OF MAKEUP EFX (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Kevin VanHook, who knows a thing or two about horror movies, directed this engaging and affectionate documentary exploring the history of movie makeup — particularly with regard to horror and science-fiction films. Among the makeup artists on hand are Dick Smith, Tom Savini, Rick Baker, Rob Bottin and Greg Nicotero (also an executive producer), while such filmmakers as George A Romero, Quentin Tarantino and Joe Dante (to name a few) offer their thoughts. Dedicated to Stan Winston, who was one of the great effects artists. ***
HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): Guillermo Del Toro’s engaging follow-up to the 2004 cult hit (based on Mike Mignola’s cult comic-book series) again stars Ron Perlman as the crimson hunk, again charged with saving the world from unspeakable evil. Selma Blair, Doug Jones, Jeffrey Tambor and John Hurt (whose character died in the first film) are also back, and the special effects (including Oscar-nominated makeup) are terrific. If anything, this is one of the few sequels that surpasses the original. Available in five different editions ranging in price from $29.98 to $69.98. Rated PG-13. ***
HIS NAME WAS JASON: 30 YEARS OF THE FRIDAY THE 13 TH (Anchor Bay Entertaiment): Tom Savini hosts this appealing documentary that traces the history of the popular Friday the 13 th film franchise, featuring interviews with producer Sean Cunningham and the various actors and technicians who have worked on the series of films (and the remake) — including those who played the role of the unstoppable killing machine Jason Voorhees. ***
IT WAITS (Anchor Bay Entertainment): … and so does the audience,for this slow-moving shocker to get going, which takes forever. LovelyCerina Vincent plays a forest ranger battling an ancient demon ofNative American mythology that has awakened and is raising hell. *’½
JASON SLASHER COLLECTION (Warner Home Video): A DVD triple-feature ($23.97 retail) consisting of the trio of Friday the 13 th films when the series moved from Paramount Pictures to New Line Cinema: Kane Hodder plays the masked man in 1993’s Jason Goes to Hell (which was subtitled The Final Friday — ha!) and in the amusing Jason X (2001), while Ken Kirzinger dons the hockey mask for Freddy vs. Jason (2003), which pitted Jason against fellow horror icon Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund). All three films are, of course, rated R.
KUNG FU PANDA (DreamWorks SKG/Paramount Home Entertainment): Jack Black provides the voice for the (selfexplanatory) title character of this fun-filled, big-budget animated feature that certainly hit the jackpot at the box-office and earned an Academy Award nomination as best animated feature. Expect sequels. A lot of them. Other familiar voices on hand: Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Ian McShane, Lucy Liu and Jackie Chan. Rated PG. ***
THE NOTEBOOK (Warner Home Video): In time for Valentine’s Day comes this “limited edition giftset” ($29.98 retail) of director Nick Cassavetes’ well-acted, award-winning 2004 adaptation of the Nicholas Sparks best-seller, with Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams as star-crossed lovers whose romance continues for more than 50 years. Pure soap opera, to be sure, but put across by a strong cast that also includes Gena Rowlands, James Garner, James Marsden, Sam Shepard and Joan Allen. The Blu-ray giftset retails for $39.99. Rated PG-13. ***
PINEAPPLE EXPRESS (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): UNCSA School of Filmmaking alumnus David Gordon Green directed this fun-filled (and sometimes extremely violent) comedy romp with Seth Rogan (also a screenwriter and executive producer) and James Franco as two slackers who come into possession of a particularly potent strain of marijuana, which gets them stoned but also into hot water with corrupt cops and deranged drug dealers. Fellow UNCSA alumni Tim Orr (cinematographer) and Danny McBride (co-star) also lend their talents to this bubbly box-office hit, available in various editions ranging in retail price from $24.94 to $39.95. Rated R (also available in an unrated version). ***
THE RIDE OF THEIR LIVES (CMT Home Entertainment/Paramount Home Entertainment): Kevin Costner narrates this feature-length documentary tracing the history of NASCAR racing, featuring interviews with many of its superstars (including Richard Petty, Darrell Waltrip, Bobby Allison and others). This special-edition DVD retails for $24.99.
SHADOW PUPPETS (Starz Home Entertainment/Anchor Bay Entertainment): In the tradition of Cube, Saw and even Creepozoids (anybody remember that one?), this sluggish shocker focuses on a group of people (Jolene Blalock, James Marsters and Tony Todd among them) who are trapped in an abandoned asylum along with a murderous presence that exists in the shadows. Only the third act generates any excitement, but by then it’s too late. *’½
SOMBRA VERDE (UNTOUCHED) (Latino/BCI): Ricardo Montalban headlines this rugged, award-winning 1954 Spanish-language melodrama based on a novel by Ramiro Torres Septien, portraying a pharmacist whose journey into the Mexican jungle to deliver medical supplies proves a test of his endurance and courage — particularly when he encounters a beauty (Adriana Welter) who falls in love with him. A “golden oldie” that still holds up, thanks in large part to Montalban’s robust yet sensitive performance. We’ll miss you, Ricardo. ***
“TRIPPING THE RIFT” – THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON (Anchor Bay Entertainment): All 13 episodes from the 2007 season of the animated Sci-Fi Channel series set in the distant future, depicting the irreverent inter-stellar adventures of the crew of the Jupiter 42. The voiceover cast includes Stephen Root, Jenny McCarthy and John Melendez. This boxed set retails for $29.97.
WITHOUT A PADDLE: NATURE’S CALLING (Paramount Home Entertainment): Two buddies (Oliver James and Kristopher Turner) and a Brit (Rik Young) find themselves up a creek — and so does the audience — in this dippy slapstick comedy that’s less a sequel to the 2004 film (which wasn’t any good to begin with) than a retread. Then again, any film that casts former pro footballer Jerry Rice as Al Gore’s brother Hal can’t be all bad… but pretty close. Rated PG-13. *
Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. ‘© 2009, Mark Burger