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DVD Reviews for 10/12: They're Here--Too Bad They Forgot The Bonus Features!
by Peter Sobczynski

Due to continuing circumstances, there will once again be no long DVD review this week. That said, there are plenty of selections below to pore over instead–everything from black comedies from Romania to surfing penguins to a future superstar caught with his pants down–and I hasten to assure you that everything will be back to normal next week.


12:08 EAST OF BUCHAREST (Tartan Video. $22.95): In this acclaimed dark comedy from Romania (yes, such things do exist), a Bucharest television station marks the anniversary of the 1989 revolt against the Ceausescu regime by inviting a couple of people from a nearby town who took part in the revolts to discuss their memories of the experience–as the show goes on and callers chime in, no two people tell the same story and there is a distinct possibility that neither of the guests may have actually been there after all.

28 WEEKS LATER (Fox Home Entertainment. $29.99): Although the absence of any of the creative personnel behind the sensationally effective 2003 faux-zombie epic “28 Days Later” might have made it seem like just another crappy sequel from a studio eager to squander the considerable audience goodwill towards the original for a few quick bucks, this turned out to be a better-than-average bit of genre filmmaking with enough excitement and gore to please hard-core horror buff and enough intelligence to satisfy the rest of us.

AGATHA CHRISTIE’S MARPLE–SERIES 3 (Acorn Media. $59.99): Agatha Christie’s beloved dowager sleuth, this time embodied by Geraldine McEwan, returns in this collection of four feature-length films made for British television. Among the familiar faces that pop up here are Saffron Burrows, Richard E. Grant, Juliet Stevenson, Francesca Annis and Jane Seymour.

ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS–SEASON 3 (Universal Home Entertainment. $39.98): Although this third season of the long-running anthology series features early efforts from such budding directors as Arthur Hiller and Robert Altman, the three episodes directed by Hitchcock himself are likely to be the biggest draw. “A Dip in the Pool,” taken from the Roald Dahl short story, is a nifty goof in which compulsive gambler Keenan Wynn goes to ill-advised extremes to slow the speed of the cruise ship he is riding on in order to win a bet. “The Perfect Crime” stars Vincent Price as an arrogant police detective with an unblemished record who is none too pleased when a lawyer arrives at his door with proof that he sent an innocent man to Death Row. Finally, and most famously, “Lamb To The Slaughter” is the one in which Barbara Bel Geddes kills her swinish husband and then manages to dispose of the murder weapon right in front of the policemen who are investigating the crime.

BLACK SHEEP (The Weinstein Company. $24.95): Yeah, I know that the idea of a horror-comedy involving genetically mutated sheep wreaking bloody havoc sounds funny enough but after about 20 minutes or so, this gory goof from New Zealand (featuring special effects from Peter Jackson’s company WETA) runs out of steam and essentially turns into the modern-day “Night of the Lepus.”

BLUEBEARD Lionsgate Entertainment. $14.98): In one of the expensive gumdrops that he made during the 1970's that essentially destroyed his career as a serious actor, Richard Burton stars as a twisted Lothario who marries a series of beautiful women and then murders them to keep his bedroom inadequacies a secret. It is a pretty terrible movie but as terrible 1970's-era Burton films go, this one is at least made somewhat tolerable by the occasional bits of goofy humor and the presence of such impossibly gorgeous women as Raquel Welch (who plays a randy nun), Nathalie Delon, Joey Heatherton, Virna Lisi, Karin Schubert and Sybil Danning, whose character is chandeliered to death if I am not mistaken.

CROSSED SWORDS (Lionsgate Entertainment. $14.98): In the wake of Richard Lester’s successful screen revival of “The Three Musketeers” in 1973, Richard Fleischer attempted to do the same thing to “The Prince and the Pauper” four years later with more middling results, mostly due to the miscasting of the limp Mark Lester in the central roles. However, it is still worth checking out, especially if you have nothing better to do, because of a star-studded supporting cast that includes the likes of Oliver Reed, Raquel Welch, George C. Scott, Charlton Heston, Rex Harrison, Ernest Borgnine and a chandelier-free Sybil Danning.

CSI: NEW YORK–THE THIRD SEASON (Paramount Home Video. $64.99): Another 24 episodes of Gary Sinise and company fighting crime in the Big Apple in the ickiest ways imaginable. Among the guest stars popping up here as suspects are the Suicide Girls (who plays a bunch of heavily pierced and tattooed burlesque performers caught up in a murder), Nelly Furtado (as an expert shoplifter caught up in a murder) and John McEnroe (as a tennis player named John McEnroe who is caught up in a murder–this is explained away in an ending so unbelievably lame that I am convinced that the entire episode was intended as a joke.)

EMMANUELLE (Lionsgate Entertainment. $19.98):The classic bit of 70's-era soft-core erotica that shattered box-office records throughout the world, transformed newcomer Sylvia Kristel into an international sex symbol and introduced millions of moviegoers to new and intriguing ways of passing the time during a long flight makes yet another appearance on DVD. If you already own it, especially as part of the entire “Emmanuelle” trilogy set that Anchor Bay put out a few years ago, there is no real reason to snag this one. If you haven’t yet seen it, however, you owe it to yourself to check out one of the great sexploitation films of all time, one that still manages to steam up the screen even after more than three decades.

EVAN ALMIGHTY (Universal Home Entertainment. $29.98): Despite an enormous budget (reportedly the highest ever for a screen comedy) and a cast that included such reliably entertaining performers as Steve Carell, Morgan Freeman, Lauren Graham, John Goodman and Wanda Sykes, this quasi-sequel to “Bruce Almighty”–some nonsense in which newly-elected congressman Carell is charged by the Almighty Freeman to build an ark in anticipation of another great flood–was a laughless mess that ineptly tried to mix earnest preachiness with an endless number of scenes in which Carell either falls off of things or gets pooped on by the four-legged supporting cast. If, on the other hand, you actually liked the film, this DVD offers up such bonuses as deleted scenes, outtakes and other bits featuring Carell kibitzing about with the desperation of Michael Scott on a bad day and with about as much success. [br]

FAMILY TIES–THE SECOND SEASON (Paramount Home Video. $38.99): In this Very Special 3-disc collection of episodes from the second season of the popular 1980's sitcom, Mallory (Justine Bateman) wonders about when is the best time to begin having sex, Alex (Michael J. Fox) gets hooked on speed (luckily, he manages to kick the habit by the end of the episode with no lingering ill effects), goofy neighbor Skippy discovers that he is adopted and a pre-stardom Tom Hanks turns up as a beloved uncle with a wicked drinking problem. Although the set does include some extras, such as a making-of featurette and an interview with Fox, the real bonus comes from spotting future stars making early appearances in guest spots–besides Hanks, you can also get early glimpses of Jami Gertz, Daphne Zuniga and Crispin Glover among others.

THE FILM CREW–THE GIANT OF MARATHON (Shout! Factory. $19.99): In their latest direct-to-video attempt to provide snarky commentary to the silliest movies ever made, former “Mystery Science Theatre 3000" performers Michael J. Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy tackle a cut-rate 1959 epic in which Steve Reeves leads a rag-tag army of Greek soldiers int battle against hordes of invading Persians. Interestingly, this film was made by not one, but two highly regarded filmmakers–Jacques Tourneur (“Cat People,” “I Walked With A Zombie,” “Out of the Past”) started the film and when he was unable to complete it, Mario Bava stepped in to finish it before officially beginning his own career.

FOX HORROR CLASSICS COLLECTION (Fox Home Entertainment. $26.98): Although Fox wasn’t really known for their horror film output during the Golden Age of Hollywood, this set collects three such titles that should prove to be of interest to genre buffs. “The Lodger” (1942) is a remake of the Alfred Hitchcock silent classic (see, they were doing these things even back in the day) in which a family rents out a room to a mysterious stranger and eventually come to fear that their boarder is none other than Jack the Ripper. “The Undying Monster” (1942) plays like a weird cross between “The Wolf Man” and “Jane Eyre” as it tells the story of a family that has been cursed by the presence of a werewolf. “Hangover Square” (1945) features the inimitable Laird Cregar as a musician who is driven to distraction by no-good sexpot singer Linda Darnell and driven to murder upon hearing a certain sound.

HANNAH MONTANA: VOLUME 3–LIFE’S WHAT YOU MAKE IT (Buena Vista Home Entertainment. $19.99): So let me see if I have the premise of this Disney Channel favorite straight–the world’s most popular teen singing sensation (Miley Cyrus) decides to keep her celebrity status a secret from her classmates in order to have a normal life and not one of them, who are presumably her target demographic, is able to figure out who she is even though she doesn’t even make the token effort of putting on a pair of Clark Kent glasses? Of course, I am sure there are plenty of tweens out there who can explain the intricacies of the show to me and they will no doubt want to get their hands on this disc, which contains four episodes of the show, a peek behind-the-scenes with the cast and a music video from Miley’s father and co-star Billy Ray Cyrus.

ITALIAN STALLION (Cinema Epoch. $14.98): Once upon a time, 1970 to be exact, Sylvester Stallone was just another struggling actor who made a few quick bucks by appearing in a porn film, the deathless “Party At Kitty And Stud’s” (one guess as to which one he played). The film was never released but once he hit it big six years later with “Rocky,” it was re-edited and finally released to cash in on his new-found fame. However, despite the star luster, it remains a bad, boring and grainy-looking film that is only of interest to those who want to see what Stallone looked like having sex 37 years ago. (Let us all offer a silent prayer that he doesn’t follow the path set by his recent revivals of the “Rocky” and “Rambo” franchises by making a sequel to this one anytime soon.)

MAN PUSH CART (Koch Video. $26.99): In this impressive debut film from writer-director Ramin Bahrani, Ahmad Razvi stars as a man who used to be a top rock star in his native Pakistan and who now ekes out a living in Manhattan selling coffee from a pushcart. Although hailed by virtually all who say it (it played at Roger Ebert’s Overlooked Film Festival in 2006), it only briefly appeared on the art-house circuit but hopefully it will find the audience it deserves on DVD.

PLAYBOY: NAKED HAPPY GIRLS–N.Y. BABES UNCOVERED (Playboy Home Video. $14.99): I don’t quite get the title of this particular DVD–has there ever been a model in one of these Playboy videos who hasn’t been anything but 100% chipper and upbeat?–but I have to admit that if they ever put out a “Naked Sullen Girls” DVD, I for one would pick it up in an instant.

POLTERGEIST–25th ANNIVERSARY EDITION (Warner Home Video. $19.98): Don’t get too hyped-up by that whole “25th Anniversary” appellation being given to this latest DVD issue of the great 1982 horror film about a suburban family who learn the hard way about that you should always move the bodies along with the headstones. Despite being a substantial hit that still holds up pretty well today, the only extra to be had is a fluffy documentary on the paranormal that has little to do with the film. Fans hoping for more–such as a documentary that would finally settle the question about whether producer Steven Spielberg really took over the film from credited director Tobe Hooper or not–will no doubt be bummed but the film itself still holds up surprisingly well after all these years as one of the better big-budget horror films of the 1980's.

REIGN OVER ME (Sony Home Entertainment. $28.95): After losing his wife and kids in the 9/11 attacks, a New York City man (Adam Sandler) withdraws from the world until he runs into an old college buddy (Don Cheadle) who tries to help break him out of his shell. Sandler and Cheadle are both good but their performances don’t quite make up for the fact that the film (written and directed by Mike Binder) is a turgid melodrama with too many unbelievable subplots and developments for its own good.

RISE: BLOOD HUNTER (Sony Home Entertainment. $24.95): In this barely-released vampire epic, Lucy Liu stars as a newspaper reporter who is killed by the leader of a vampire cult (James D’Arcy), comes back to life as a bloodsucker herself and begins hunting down her killer and his followers with the aid of two-fisted cop Michael Chiklis. Just as silly as it looks but if you want to see a bunch of fabulous-looking babes (including Cameron Richardson and Carla Gugino) running around in little more than a thin sheen of spilled blood this week, this is pretty much it along those lines.

ROBIN OF SHERWOOD–SERIES 2 (Acorn Media. $59.99): Produced for British television in the 1980's (and later seen in America on Showtime), this small-screen version of the classic tale of derring-do, in which young Robert of Huntingdon (Jason Connery, son of you-know-who) takes over the identity of the fallen Robin Hood and reassembles the Merry Men to once again do battle with the sheriff of Nottingham, is often regarded as one of the better adaptations. This set includes the last thirteen episodes of its two-year run as well as audio commentaries, documentaries, outtakes and an interview with Irish music group Clannad about doing the scoring.

SURF’S UP (Sony Home Entertainment. $28.95): Although I could easily go for the rest of my days without ever watching another children’s film featuring penguins as the central characters, I will admit that this nonsense about a teen penguin (Shia LaBeouf) who wants to be a champion surfer was reasonably entertaining, mostly due to the hilarious supporting turn by Jeff Bridges (in full Lebowski mode) as a burn-out who educates the kid about the finer points of hanging ten when you technically don’t possess ten in the first place.

TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE (Warner Home Video. $19.98): Anthology films are almost always a decidedly mixed bag from a quality standpoint and this big-screen version of the classic Rod Serling television series is no exception. It kicks off with a great prologue from director John Landis featuring Dan Aykroyd and Albert Brooks that features a lot of hilarious weirdo humor (the high point being Brooks’ rendition of the heretofore unknown lyrics to the “National Geographic” theme song before coming up with the perfect climactic sucker punch. From there, Landis, in the film’s one original episode, offers up a lame parable about the perils of racism that wastes an effective Vic Morrow performance (the last he would give as he infamously died in an on-set accident while shooting the film) on the kind of heavy-handed message picture that makes “Crash” look subtle by comparison. The film then goes from bad to worse with Steven Spielberg’s contribution, a cloying version of “Kick the Can” (a tale of old people who learn that you are only as old as you feel) that remains arguably the single weakest film he has ever made. Joe Dante brings the entire enterprise back to life with his funny take on “It’s A Good Life” in which he transforms the terrifying tale of a young boy with the power to make anything that he thinks of happen into a bizarre live-action cartoon. Finally, George Miller brings the film to a rousing finale with his brilliant take on “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” his amazingly intense version of the tale of a white-knuckle flyer (John Lithgow in one of his very best performances) who cannot convince anyone on board that there is a gremlin on the wing of the plane monkeying with the engine. Alas, the bonus features must have been wished into a cornfield somewhere because they are nowhere to be found here–the only extra on display is a fairly tatty-looking teaser trailer.

WRONG TURN 2: DEAD END (Fox Home Entertainment. $26.98): For reasons that pretty much escape me, someone decided that the fairly lame 2003 horror film about a family of inbred cannibals stalking a bunch of city types lost in the woods deserved its very own direct-to-video sequel. Since that films only asset–the sight of Eliza Dushku in a T-shirt tighter than the one worn by Jessica Biel in the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” remake–obviously wasn’t going to be available to them this time around, the makers came up with the oh-so-clever conceit of having the film’s heroes being contestants in a “Survivor”-like reality show who are being picked off one by one by the snack-happy rubes.

YOU KILL ME (IFC Films. $19.95): In his best performance since “House of Sand and Fog” (which isn’t saying that much when you consider that the time frame includes such “classics” as “Bloodrayne” and “Thunderbirds”), Ben Kingsley stars as an alcoholic hit man who is sent out to San Francisco by his employers and begins a strange relationship with the ever-quirky Tea Leoni. Although most of you are probably sick of comedies involving hit men with psychological problems (which might explain why so few people saw it when it played in theaters last summer), this one transcends its familiar premise with clever plotting, good acting (even Leoni is less insufferable than usual) and a lot of big laughs.

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originally posted: 10/12/07 13:47:04
last updated: 10/13/07 04:02:51
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