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by Peter Sobczynski

Because I have had to relocate the home office for a few days to beautiful Boston in order to witness Paula Mathieu and Alex Tsouvalas pledge their troth to each other and whatnot, I was unable to get around to writing an extended piece on one of this week’s DVD releases. Please enjoy these shorter clips and if you only have time for a couple, you should look into "Double Indemnity" (because it is one of the all-time greats), "Silent Hill" (because it is too good-looking not to miss) and "Beyond the Poseidon Adventure" (on the theory that if I had to sit through it , so should you).


BEYOND THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE (Warner Home Video. $14.98): After having helped popularize the disaster genre in the early 1970's with "The Poseidon Adventure," legendary producer Irwin Allen pretty much helped kill it off with such laughably bottom-of-the-barrel attempts as "The Swarm," "When Time Ran Out" and this dubious 1979 sequel in which Michael Caine, Sally Field and Telly Savalas board the still-overturned boat to salvage the valuables and stumble across some previously unseen survivors (including Peter Boyle, Karl Malden, Shirley Jones and Slim Pickens as "Tex"). Pretty awful but those with a taste for cheesy disaster films will probably have more fun watching this than "Snakes on a Plane." If you still have a thirst for nautical disasters after this one (or a desire to see Emmy Rossum, Mia Maestro, Jacinda Barrett and Fergie in waterlogged clothes), Warner is also releasing Wolfgang Petersen’s not-entirely-worthless remake "Poseidon" (Warner Home Video. $34.98) as well.

BLUE THUNDER–THE COMPLETE SERIES (Sony Home Entertainment. $39.95): If I recall correctly, the producers of this short-lived series based on the nifty 1983 techno-thriller pretty much threw out the film’s premise (a helicopter devised by the government to spy on citizens and neutralize potential "threats") and transformed it into a "Knight Rider" clone in which a loner cop (James Farentino) and his pet helicopter went around solving the personal problems of those they came across. Might be worth picking up just to see how the show worked around the whole JAFO thing.

DOUBLE INDEMNITY (Universal Home Entertainment. $26.98): If you really need me to explain to you why you should rush out and pick up a copy of Billy Wilder’s 1944 film noir classic–a long-awaited 2-disc special edition featuring a documentary on the film, commentaries from critic Richard Schickel and screenwriter Lem Dobbs and a copy of a 1973 TV-movie remake with Richard Crenna, Lee J. Cobb and Samantha Eggar trying to fill the respective shoes of Fred MacMurray, Edward G. Robinson and Barbara Stanwyck–you probably shouldn’t be reading this column in the first place.

FROM THE HIP (Lion’s Gate Home Entertainment. $14.98): Good news–it’s "Judd For the Defense." Bad news–it’s "Judd Nelson For the Defense" as the always-restrained Brat Packer plays an ambitious defense attorney trying to save a client (John Hurt) despite being pretty sure that he is guilty.

GALAXINA (Brentwood Home Video. $19.98): If this exceptionally lame 1979 sci-fi sex comedy (by comparison, "Flesh Gordon" is a high-water mark of both eroticism and wit) is remembered at all today, it is due to the sweet presence of the late Dorothy Stratten in a supporting role as a robot. Despite the surrounding film, she showed enough charm to make you wish that she had been able to appear in some decent movies before her tragic murder.

JUST MY LUCK (Fox Home Entertainment. $29.99): This Lindsay Lohan box-office dud is being released on DVD on the exact same day as Paris Hilton’s debut CD. Vaguely ironic coincidence or a clear-cut symbol of end times–you make the call.

KARATE DOG (Universal Home Entertainment. $19.98): Look, we all knew it was a matter of time before Chevy Chase did another movie in which he provided the voice for a talking dog. That said, I think we all assumed it would be an unnecessary sequel to "Oh Heavenly Dog" and not an unnecessary original (from the people who brought you the "Baby Genius" films, no less) in which he plays the pet of a murdered Chinese man who helps cop Simon Rex piece together a case filled with mystery, intrigue and both Jon Voight and Jaime Pressley.

KICKING AND SCREAMING (The Criterion Collection. $29.95): The Nineties were chokes with a seemingly endless supply of indie films involving hyper-articulate twenty-somethings sitting around and trying to figure out what to do with their lives. This one, from writer-director Noah Baumbach (who went on to make "The Squid and the Whale" and co-write "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou"), was one of the better ones, thanks mostly to a sparkling cast of familiar indie faces including Eric Stoltz, Chris Eigeman and the then-ubiquitous Parker Posey.

MOVING/GREASED LIGHTNING (Warner Home Video. $14.98): A double-feature disc containing two films starring Richard Pryor that effectively demonstrates the peaks and valleys of his troubled film career. 1977's "Greased Lightning," a biopic of stock car champion Wendell Scott, contains a lot of big laughs and also shows that Pryor was perfectly adept at handling more serious roles. 1988's "Moving," on the other hand, was an embarrassing "Vacation" knock-off in which he plays a doofy dad struggling to move his family from New Jersey to Idaho after getting a promotion at work.

PURE COUNTRY/HONEYSUCKLE ROSE (Warner Home Video. $14.98): Another double feature disc of Warner catalogue titles–the former is a fairly undistinguished 1992 effort designed to serve as a launching pad for the film career of singer George Strait (and we can see how far that got him) while the flip side is a hugely entertaining 1980 film that more successfully attempted to do the same for Willie Nelson.

RADIOLAND MURDERS (Universal Home Entertainment. $14.98): That’s right–this re-release of the frantically unfunny 1994 screwball comedy about the behind-the-scenes mayhem at a 1930's radio station (based loosely on Chicago’s WGN) was deemed worthy of a new anamorphic transfer by producer George Lucas but not the original "Star Wars" trilogy.

SILENT HILL (Sony Home Entertainment. $28.95): Though it makes virtually no sense on any kind of narrative level, this film adaptation of the popular video game is still worth a rental because director Christopher Gans (whose previous work was the startling "Brotherhood of the Wolf") has transformed what could have been just a brain-dead rip-off into a visually stunning work that is closer to the art-house cinema of David Lynch than it is to the likes of such failed videogame translations as "Doom" or "Bloodrayne."

THIS ISLAND EARTH (Universal Home Entertainment. $14.98): Although mercilessly skewered in "Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie" (and where is that special edition re-release?), this was actually a reasonably effective sci-fi programmer about a two-fisted, extra-hunky scientist (Rex Reason) who finds himself involved in a plot by the dying planet of Metaluna to conquer and colonize Earth. "Giligan’s Island" buffs will be amused to see Russell Johnson in a supporting role as a fellow scientist (though his defense shield constructed entirely from coconuts winds up leaving much to be desired.

TOMBOY (Brentwood Home Video. $9.98): A prime slice of appealingly cheesy mid-1980's softcore sex comedy, this one stars Betsy Russell (whose name can be found in the credits for "Avenging Angel" and "Private School" and in questions that start with "Whatever happened to ...?") as a sexy tomboy mechanic who falls for a hunky driver and tries to get his attention by beating him on the track. Hey, if I have to see a race-car driver running around half-naked, I’d prefer it to be her over Will Ferrell any day of the week.

VERONICA MARS–THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON (Warner Home Video. $59.98): Out of respect of those who have been waiting for this DVD set to catch up with the second season of the hugely entertaining TV series, I won’t make any comments about the shocking twists, turns and revelations discovered by plucky heroine Kristen Bell. All I will say is that after watching the season finale, all I could do is paraphrase Bill Murray watching the climactic soap opera in "Tootsie" and say "That is one nutty high school!"

WHO AM I THIS TIME? (Monterey Video. $19.95): Made for public television in 1982–back before any of them became the well-known names that they are today–Jonathan Demme directed this touching and entertaining short film (based on the Kurt Vonnegut story) about an uncommonly shy man–played by a tic-free Christopher Walken–who only seems to come alive when he is appearing on-stage with his local community theater and the newcomer (Susan Sarandon) who is curious about what makes him tick.

THE WIZARD (Universal Home Entertainment. $14.98): In perhaps the least-subtle stab at product placement in a children’s film since the creature in "Mac & Me" was brought back to life through the magic of Coca-Cola, this silly 1989 road movie followed Fred Savage on a cross-country road trip to take his half-brother to a Nintendo championship match. Alt-pop fans may be amused to spot Jenny Lewis in a supporting role.

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originally posted: 08/25/06 05:44:08
last updated: 09/02/06 02:34:13
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