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DVD Reviews for 1/25: Could Someone Please Bring Their Evil Here?
by Peter Sobczynski

In which your faithful scribe desperately tries to transform a terribly paltry week for DVD releases into a compelling column. SPOILER WARNING! He fails but at least he gets to make references to Abe Vigoda, John Saxon and Paris Hilton in the same article.

This has been an especially grim week in the entertainment world and those of you hoping to find some solace in the newest DVD releases are going to find yourselves mighty disappointed with the slim pickings on display this week–a collection of films you avoided in the theater and TV shows you deleted from your Tivo. Okay, there are a couple of interesting things on display but nothing worth venturing out into the bitter cold to pick up and certainly not worth spending any amount of time analyzing in depth at this time. In other words, feel free to skip over this week’s column as there really is nothing to see here.


ADRIFT IN MANHATTAN (Screen Media Films. $24.98): This is another one of those films in which the lives of a bunch of otherwise unrelated New Yorkers intersect in unexpected ways–literally in this case as the encounters come as the result of their subway commutes. This time around, Heather Graham is an optometrist trying to deal with the death of her child, Dominic Chianese is an elderly painter who is losing his sight and Victor Rasuk is a sheltered teen shutterbug who can only connect with the world through the lens of his camera.

BANACEK–THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON (Arts Alliance America. $29.95): Everyone’s favorite Polish-born, Boston-based, proverb-quoting insurance investigator, essayed by the late, great George Peppard returns in this collection of episodes (actually nine full-length TV movies) from the well-regarded shows second and final season. Among the famous faces who pop up here are two veterans of Stanley Kubrick movies (Sterling Hayden and Gary Lockwood), a former “Batman” villain (Cesar Romero), a couple of future soap stars (Victoria Principal and Linda Evans) and, perhaps inevitably, future B-movie icon John Saxon.

BARNEY MILLER–THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON (Sony Home Entertainment. $29.95): Hey, say what you will about the redoubtable Abe Vigoda–watching him in these episodes of the popular sitcom and then looking at current pictures of him, he doesn’t seem to have aged a day in the 35-year gap. Makes you think, doesn’t it?

BLONDE AMBITION (Sony Home Entertainment. $24.95): Yes, this is that infamous Jessica Simpson vanity project that made headlines a few weeks ago when it debuted in a handful of Texas theaters and grossed approximately $47. In this bald-faced rip-off of “Legally Blonde” (right down to having Luke Wilson once again playing the role of the suitor-to-be), not to mention any number of similar films in which blonde babes triumph over some kind of adversity, Simpson plays a small-town ditz who comes to New York and finds herself the unwitting and heavily-lacquered pawn in a corporate takeover plot masterminded by a brain trust consisting of Penelope Ann Miller and Andy Dick.

THE GAME PLAN (Buena Vista Home Entertainment. $29.99): In the biggest hit film of last fall, The Rock aims for the family crowd with this broad and allegedly heartwarming comedy about a vain quarterback whose life is turned upside-down by the arrival of the daughter that he never knew he had–with his crazy bachelor lifestyle, will he ever able to cope with the wacky challenges that come with raising an adorable urchin? Tune in and find out and if that proves too taxing, check out the bonus features in which ESPN and Disney demonstrate the joys of corporate synergy by having the forces from the former shilling for the product from the latter.

HAWAII FIVE-O--THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON (Paramount Home Video. $49.99): Worshipers of the Church of Our Jack Lord want to pick up this set of episodes from the third season of the long-running cop show to watch their deity, along with colleagues Danno (James McArthur), Chin Ho (Kam Fong) and Kono Kalakaua (Zulu) of choice busting heads, breaking hearts and trying to bring down devious arch-enemy Wo Fat. People who like to play “Spot the Celebrity” while watching old television shows will want to tune in to note appearances from the likes of Martin Sheen, Vera Miles, John Vernon and Patrick Duffy. Those of us who are sick and tired of sitting in sub-zero temperatures watching the snow fall will want to check it out for the diversionary aspects of the Hawaiian locations. See–there is something here for virtually everyone.

THE HUNTING PARTY (The Weinstein Company. $28.95): In the follow-up to his acclaimed 2005 film “The Matador,” writer-director Richard Shepard gives us a fact-based black comedy in which a disgraced journalist (Richard Gere) leads a couple of colleagues (Terrence Howard and Jesse Eisenberg) into the hills of war-torn Bosnia to find the region’s leading war criminal to either interview the man or capture him. Stay tuned through the end credits so that you can see just how much of the story really did happen.

MISSIONARY MAN (Sony Home Entertainment. $24.95): One-time “Rocky IV” heavy/Grace Jones plaything Dolph Lundgren directs and stars in this direct-to-video item in which he plays a lone biker who arrives in a corrupt town to avenge the murder of his best friend and prevent the building of a sleazy casino upon a pristine Indian reservation. I know–I can’t wait to see this either.

MOLIERE (Sony Home Entertainment. $29.95): Sort of like “Shakespeare in Love” with more cleavage, the lavishly produced and frequently amusing historical comedy offers a speculation of how the great playwright (Romain Duris) came to write his most famous work, the cuckold comedy “Tartuffe” while spending time at the estate of a wealthy patron (Fabrice Luchini) trying to help him seduce a lissome widow (Ludivine Sagnier) while doing the same to the guy’s hot-to-trot wife (Laura Morante).

THE ODD COUPLE–THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON (Paramount Home Video. $38.99): “Can two divorced men share an apartment without driving each other crazy?” Happily, in the case of this eternally popular sitcom showcase for Tony Randall and Jack Klugman, the answer is a most definitive “No!” In this season, the guys join a monastery, find themselves fighting over the same girl and get involved in wacky misadventures involving the likes of special guest stars Deacon Jones, Monty Hall and Howard Cosell.

SAW IV (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $29.95): Even though “Saw III” ended with his grisly demise and this film opens with his even-more-grisly autopsy, the killer known as Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) still manages to offer up a number of gory life lessons to a where’d-they-come-from cast (including the likes of Costas Mandaylor, Donnie Wahlberg and 1980's sex-kitten Betsy Russell) in the latest installment of one of the most pointless and gratuitously gruesome horror franchises of recent years.

SEX AND BREAKFAST (First Look Films. $26.98): Name two things that can be improved with a spoonful of warm honey. Sorry about that but whenever I get a chance to do my impression of the Great Carnac, I Actually, this is a long-shelved indie item in which two twenty-something couples (portrayed by Macaulay Culkin, Alexis Dziena, Kuno Becker and Eliza Dushku) in therapy decide to jointly explore the wonderful world of group sex as a way of dealing with their problems with intimacy and commitment, though presumably not in enough detail to make it worth checking out for those of you whose interests are not exactly of an artistic nature.

THE SIMPLE LIFE GOES TO CAMP (Fox Home Entertainment. $19.98): So where the hell are Jason, Cropsy and that psycho-transsexual from “Sleepaway Camp” when you need them?

SWAMP THING–THE COMPLETE SERIES (Shout! Factory. $39.99): How to explain why this long-forgotten TV adaptation of the DC Comics cult favorite has made it to DVD when so many other classic shows remain painfully unavailable? My guess is that the folks at Shout! Factory, when asked if this show would ever appear in shiny silver disc form, told people that it would only come out when someone else put out the “Weird Science” series and since that theoretically unlikely even happened a couple of weeks ago, they just wanted to make good on their word.

SYDNEY WHITE (Universal Home Entertainment. $29.98): Although this contemporary riff on “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves,” reset on a college campus and featuring a group of nerdy outcasts whose fortunes change when they take in a young woman who helps turn their lives around, is as silly and innocuous as it sounds, I still had a pretty good time watching it thanks to the occasional inspired joke (including the inevitable-but-hilarious riff on “Heigh-ho”) and the more-than-inspired performance by the enormously engaging Amanda Bynes in the central role.

THIS SPORTING LIFE (The Criterion Collection. $39.95): After years of working as a documentarin, British director Lindsay Anderson made his feature-film debut with this acclaimed drama about an angry young miner (Richard Harris) who becomes the star of a local rugby team and discovers that the anger and volatile nature that makes him a success on the field only hinders him off of it. Having previously celebrated Anderson’s work with last year’s killer edition of “If. . .,” Criterion pulls out all the stops here with a set that includes several of Anderson’s documentary efforts, including his first and last films and 1952's “Wakefield Express,” a film about the town that he would later use as the central local for “This Sporting Life.”

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originally posted: 01/25/08 12:41:15
last updated: 01/26/08 07:08:59
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