video vault by Mark Burger
DVD PICK OF THE WEEK ADVENTURELAND (Miramax Films/Buena Vista Home Entertainment): Writer/director Greg Mottola follows up his wildly successful Superbad with a ilm that’s even better and funnier, but didn’t do nearly as well at the box-ofice last spring.
The year is 1987. The place is beautiful Pittsburgh. Our hero is young James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg), a virginal college graduate whose girlfriend (of 11 days) has just dumped him and whose parents suddenly can’t afford his tuition for graduate school.
In desperation, James takes a job working the games at Adventureland, a second-rate amusement park staffed by an assortment of slackers, stoners and myriad misits — among them Joel (Martin Starr), a pipe-smoking Jewish intellectual; Frigo (Matt Bush), an obnoxious loudmouth who takes endless delight in tormenting James; and Em (Kristen Stewart), a lonely lass wrestling with teen angst on a grand scale. Not surprisingly, James takes a shine to Em (and she to him) — unaware that she’s carrying on an illicit affair with Connell (Ryan Reynolds), the park’s hip (and very married) maintenance man, who supposedly once jammed with Lou Reed.
With a mind-bending succession of ’80s tunes on the soundtrack — if you can’t get enough of Falco’s “Rock Me Amadeus,” then this is the movie for you — Adventureland delivers consistent laughs, some sharp observations and bittersweet moments, particularly in the relationship between James and Em. It’s not quite to the level of an American Grafiti or a Dazed and Confused, but it comes closer than most, and it’s far superior to the standard teen comedy.
Adventureland is available as a singledisc DVD ($29.99 retail), a two-disc special edition ($39.99 retail), or a Blu-ray special edition ($44.99 retail). Rated R. ***
ALSO ON DVD
(500) DAYS OF SUMMER (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Director Marc Webb’s award-winning feature debut stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel (she’s “Summer”) as a couple whose relationship is depicted — although not in chronological order. Good performances and some insightful observations made this a summer sleeper. This also kicked off the 2009 RiverRun International Film Festival in Winston-Salem. Rated PG-13. *** 2009 WORLD SERIES FILM:
PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES VS. NEW YORK YANKEES (Major League Baseball Productions/Shout! Factory): The title tells all in this sports documentary that revisits the 2009 World Series between my favorite baseball team (the Phillies) and my least favorite baseball team (the Yankees), available on DVD ($19.99 retail) or Blu- ray ($29.99 retail). The Series went six games. It just went the wrong way, and if you can’t get enough of the Yankees, keep reading….
ALMOST YOU (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Story writer Adam Brooks’ award-winning 1985 directorial debut stars Brooke Adams and Grifin Dunne as a Yuppie couple whose relationship comes undone. The cast — which also includes Karen Young, Dana Delany, Josh Mostel, Joe Silver, Christine Estabrook, Mark Metcalf, Spalding Gray and playwright Miguel Pinero (in his inal ilm) — tries hard to ind some semblance of charm, but this whiny romantic comedy grows as irritating as its principal characters before too long. Rated R. *’½ BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT (Anchor Bay Entertainment): In his pursuit of a big story, hotshot TV reporter Jesse Metcalfe implicates himself in a murder to prove that politically ambitious but corrupt DA Michael Douglas has been falsifying forensic evidence. Ostensibly a remake of director Fritz Lang’s 1956 ilm noir (his last American ilm), this slick exercise from screenwriter/cinematographer/director Peter Hyams is a throwback to the conspiracy thrillers of the ’70s and ’80s — a genre Hyams specialized in (Capricorn One, The Star Chamber)… but that was then and this is now, and this basically belongs on the small screen. Douglas hasn’t much to do and Metcalfe too much, leaving Amber Tamblyn — as Douglas’ associate and Metcalfe’s lover — to take what acting honors there are. Rated PG-13. ** “CRISS ANGEL: MINDFREAK” COLLECTOR’S EDITION MEGASET (A&E Home Entertainment): A mammoth, 15-DVD boxed set ($99.95 retail) that features every episode from all ive seasons of the popular (and ongoing) A&E television series focusing on the exploits of award-winning magician and illusionist Criss Angel. A&E Home Entertainment is also releasing “The 5 Lives of Criss Angel: Mindfreak” ($24.95 retail), which includes ive of the most popular stunts Angel has ever attempted.
DISTRICT 9 (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Screenwriter/director Neill Blomkamp’s impressive, awardwinning debut feature is an allegorical sci-i saga about alien visitors stranded in Johannesburg, where they are treated like second-class citizens and forced to live in internment camps. Metaphors abound; any resemblance to the apartheid era in South Africa is undoubtedly intentional, and the story takes on heavy Kafka-esque overtones when a heretofore xenophobic government worker (newcomer Sharlto Copley) inds himself exposed to an alien virus that causes him to turn into one of them. This summer sleeper deservedly hit the jackpot at the box-ofice and became an immediate cult favorite. The special effects are terriic, too. Available as a single-disc DVD ($28.96 retail), a two-DVD special edition ($36.95 retail), a Blu-ray disc ($39.95 retail), or as a UMD disc ($24.94 retail). Rated R. ***
JENNIFER’S BODY (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): High-school hottie Megan Fox becomes a voracious succubus and begins feeding on the residents of her small town, which certainly puts a crimp in her relationship with best friend Amanda Seyfried. Screenwriter (and executive producer) Diablo Cody gets off some good lines, but director Karyn Kusama displays no particular feel for the horror genre. Indeed, the ilmmakers sometimes appear to be condescending to the genre and, in the second half, making things up as they go along. Not without interest, but a misire nonetheless. Rated R (also available in an unrated version). ** JULIE & JULIA (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Amy Adams plays Julie Powell, a young writer who established a successful blog detailing her attempts to re-create the recipes of Julia Child (the ever-superb Meryl Streep), in screenwriter/ director Nora Ephron’s overlong adaptation of both Powell’s book and Child’s autobiography. The lashbacks scenes of Streep as Child (with Stanley Tucci as her husband Paul) are far more persuasive than the latter-day ones focusing on Powell, which tend to be shallow and frivolous. Rated PG-13. ** “KYLE XY”: THE COMPLETE THIRD AND FINAL SEASON (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): The inal 10 episodes from the 2009 (and last) season of the award-winning prime-time ABC Family science-iction series sees the title character (Matt Dallas) attempting to pinpoint his origins — while also preparing for his high-school prom. This boxed set retails for $39.99.
“LOST”: THE COMPLETE FIFTH SEASON (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): The mystery continues in all 17 episodes from the 2009 season of the top-rated, award-winning, prime-time ABC-TV series, which sees the Oceanic 6 back on the island on which they’ve been marooned the last ive years. The ensemble cast includes Terry O’Quinn, Matthew Fox, Naveen Andrews, Evangeline Lilly, Henry Ian Cusick, Elizabeth Mitchell, Daniel Dae Kim and Michael Emerson (Emmy winner for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series). Four additional Emmy nominations including Outstanding Drama Series. This boxed set retails for $59.99 (DVD) and $79.99 (Blu-ray).
MERCY STREETS (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Writer/producer/ editor/director Jon Gunn’s feature debut stars David AR White (also a producer) in the dual role of twin brothers, one an ex-con and the other a church deacon, who are compelled to switch places in order to save each other. This faith-based melodrama is more effective than most, because the message is placed within the context of the story and doesn’t overwhelm it. A good supporting cast includes Eric Roberts (having fun as the heavy), Stacy Keach, Robert LaSardo, Shiek MahmudBay, Cynthia Watros and ex-football star Lawrence Taylor as a minister (!). Rated PG-13. **’½
THE NEW YORK YANKEES 2009 WORLD SERIES COLLECTOR’S EDITION (Major League Baseball Productions/A&E Home Entertainment): Yeah, yeah, yeah… the Bronx Bombers won their record 27 th championship in 2009. Unfortunately, they did it against my Philadelphia Phillies. This eight-DVD boxed set, which includes all six games of the World Series plus bonus materials, retails for $79.95. MLB and A&E have also teamed up to release New York Yankees 2009: Season of Pride, Tradition & Glory ($19.95), a documentary that chronicles the entire Yankees season. The term “Damn Yankees” took on a whole new meaning for me last year.
“THE PAPER CHASE”: SEASON TWO (Shout! Factory): Reprising his Oscar-winning role as Prof. Charles W. Kingsield Jr., the inimitable John Houseman lays down the law — and drills it into his students — in all 19 episodes from the 1983-’84 season of the acclaimed, award-winning legal drama, which was canceled by CBS in 1979 but resurrected on the Showtime cable network, where it ran for three more seasons. This boxed set retails for $49.99.
SUNSHINE CLEANING (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Amy Adams and Emily Blunt dominate this award-winning black comedy about two sisters who try to make ends meet by starting a service that specializes in cleaning up crime scenes. Touching and funny, but the story is sometimes hit-or-miss, although the performances (including Alan Arkin’s as the girls’ dad) are on-target throughout. Rated R. **’½ UFC: ULTIMATE 100 GREATEST FIGHT MOMENTS (Anchor Bay Entertainment): The title tells all in this special-edition DVD ($19.97 retail) featuring highlights from the most memorable matches in the 16-year history of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, including bouts featuring Royce Gracie, Chuck Liddell, Randy Coutoure, Matt Hughes and more.
THE WOODSMAN (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Kevin Bacon (also an executive producer) delivers a bold performance in director Nicole Kassell’s award-winning feature debut, adapted from Steven Fechter’s play (by Kassell and Fechter), about a child molester attempting to rejoin society after serving 12 years in prison. Mature, intense at times and very well-acted by all concerned, including Kyra Sedgwick (Bacon’s real-life wife), Benjamin Bratt, Mos Def, David Alan Grier, Michael Shannon and Eve. Rated R. ***
Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92.
Copyright 2009, Mark Burger WWW.YESWEEKLY.COM