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DVD Reviews For 6/11: “In The Immortal Words Of Jean Paul Sartre, ‘Au Revoir, Gopher’”
by Peter Sobczynski

I apologize for the lateness of this week’s column--believe me, you do not want to know the details. While the pickings may once again seem a bit slim, this week does offer up such sights as a couple of interesting martial arts extravaganzas, a top film from one of the world’s great filmmakers, the best film of 2010 to date and the Blu-ray debut of an all-time comedy classic.


THE 41-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN WHO KNOCKED UP SARAH MARSHALL AND FELT SUPERBAD ABOUT IT (Fox Home Entertainment. $22.98): You don’t think this is too subtle, do you? You don’t think people are going to watch this direct-to-video and not get whose films it is trying to spoof?

CADDYSHACK (Warner Home Video. $24.98): I presume that a description of this 1980 comedy, in which Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield wreak havoc on a staid country club under the control of stick-in-the-mud Ted Knight, and a recitation of its collection of endlessly quotable lines will seem superfluous to anyone reading this column. That said, I will merely point out that while it may not be the funniest movie ever made, as many of its fans will attest, it contains enough big laughs (including pretty much every single line delivered by Dangerfield) to make it seem as though it is. Finally on Blu-ray, the disc contains the retrospective documentary that accompanied its 1999 DVD release along with a new feature-length documentary on its history that was produced for A&E last year. In other words, this is pretty much the reason why Blu-ray was invented.

CLOSE-UP (The Criterion Collection. $39.95): Over the past couple of decades, Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami has been hailed as one of the world’s greatest and most formally inventive filmmakers and this 1990 work, a part-narrative, part-documentary meditation on the artistic process, personal identity and the cinema inspired by the real-life case of a man arrested for allegedly impersonating fellow filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf, remains one of the most fascinating and daring works of his entire career. This special edition includes a commentary track from Kiarostami experts Jonathan Rosenbaum and Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa, a new interview and a documentary on the director, a second documentary that catches up with the protagonist of “Close-Up” a few years after its release and, best of all, “The Traveler,” Kiarostami’s charming 1974 feature debut about a young boy who will do practically anything to attend an important soccer match in Tehran. Look, I understand that this may not be the kind of thing that you want to watch on a lazy summer night but if you have any interest or curiosity in what is going in world cinema, this package is an excellent start.

CRY OF THE OWL (Paramount Home Video. $22.98): In this adaptation of the novel by Patricia Highsmith, previously filmed in 1987 by Claude Chabrol, an emotionally troubled man (Paddy Considine) finds himself benignly stalking a beautiful young woman (Julia Stiles) and when she catches him, she winds up befriending him. The trouble is, she may be even crazier than he is and when her ex-boyfriend suddenly disappears, the former stalker now finds himself being stalked. Although the performances from Considine and Stiles are good (and Caroline Dhavernas, formerly of the late and truly lamented “Wonderfalls,” is really impressive as Considine’s nightmarish ex-wife), the film never really generates the necessary level of suspense to keep the story going, which might explain why it has gone directly to DVD.

FROM PARIS WITH LOVE (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $29.95): John Travolta and Jonathan Rhys Meyers bounce from one wildly over-the-top action sequence to the next in an effort to save the City of Lights from terrorists in this latest release from the Luc Besson film factory. Although as silly and insubstantial as can be, Besson and director Pierre Morel (who previously collaborated on the smash hit “Taken”) keep things humming along nicely and the film is aided by a scenery-chewing turn from Travolta that for once fits in with the rest of the proceedings. It isn’t much but as incoherent cinematic eye candy goes, I’d take it over the likes of “The A-Team” in a heartbeat (and not just because of the heart-stopping presence of megababe Kasia Smutniak)

POWER KIDS (Magnolia Home Entertainment. $29.95): Pop quiz, hotshot. You are a kid studying at a Muay Thai school in Thailand, your younger brother is in immediate need of a heart transplant and the donor organ is stuck inside a hospital that has just been taken over by terrorists--what do you do? If your answer is “Gather up some fellow classmates, break into the hospital and race against the clock to retrieve the heart and lay waste to any bad guys who get in the way,“ then you will no doubt enjoy this very silly but very enjoyable action extravaganza.

SHINJINKU INCIDENT (Sony Home Entertainment. $24.94): If you have a taste for a Jackie Chan movie but have no desire to sit through the misbegotten “Karate Kid” remake, perhaps this action thriller--in which Chan plays an illegal immigrant in Tokyo (with the unlikely name of Nick Steelhead) who somehow becomes embroiled with the Yakuza--will be more up your alley. Although its direct-to-DVD debut in these parts might suggest that it is somehow lacking, this is actually one of Chan’s better films of late, though definitely darker in tone than the vast majority of his filmography--dark enough, in fact, that it was actually banned from theatrical release in mainland China due to government complaints about the level of violence in a couple of scenes.

SHUTTER ISLAND (Paramount Home Entertainment. $29.99): With this adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s 2003 thriller about a federal marshal (Leonardo DiCaprio) investigating the weird goings-on at an isolated insane asylum, Martin Scorsese has finally made the conventional exercise in genre filmmaking that he has spent his entire career more or less avoiding. And yet, while the notion of trying to paint within the lines of conventional narrative cinema might have stymied most maverick filmmakers, the challenge seems to have inspired Scorsese and the end result is a film that brilliantly balances artistic and commercial considerations in ways that are sure to impress both cineastes and people simply looking for something entertaining to watch on a Saturday night. As of this moment, this is the best American film of 2010 by a long shot.

SORORITY GIRLS 3-D (Infinity Entertainment. $19.98): Shall I assume that nothing more needs to be said?

STARSTRUCK: GOT TO BELIEVE EXTENDED EDITION (Walt Disney Home Entertainment. $26.99): In Disney’s latest attempt to groom a new collection of tween-oriented stars (now that the “High School Musical” kids have graduated and Miley Cyrus has begun to embrace her inner skank), a nice young girl from the sticks (Danielle Campbell) goes to Hollywood for a visit and winds up crossing paths with a young pop star (Sterling Knight) straight from the pages of “Non-Threatening Boys.” Unless you are part of its target audience of 12-year-old girls, there is no earthly reason to watch this but if you have such a creature in your house, be prepared for endless replays of both the film and the accompanying soundtrack CD.

TALES OF THE GOLD MONKEY:THE COMPLETE SERIES (Shout! Factory. $49.97): In the wake of the smash success of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” in 1981, both CBS and ABC decided that if they could figure out a way of transferring the magic of that film from the big screen to the boob tube (minus such minor elements as Steven Spielberg, Harrison Ford and a movie-sized budget to work with) and the fact that you most likely recall neither of them should go a long way towards explaining how they turned out. This was ABC’s attempt, a pseudo-serial featuring Stephen Collins as a 30’s-era flying ace and general raconteur who found himself battling various foes in between flirting with American spy Caitlin O’Heaney, feuding with his one-eyed dog and trading quips with pseudo-suave bar owner Roddy McDowell. Filled with borderline racist bad guys, cheesy attempts to stretch the meager budgets (to steal a quote from MST3K, the stock footage is more like stock mileage) and irritatingly self-conscious references to all the classic stories that it then proceeds to blatantly rip off, this show quickly wears out its welcome and will cause most people to think that, in retrospect, that “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles” wasn’t that bad in retrospect. Other TV-related DVDs available this week include “The A-Team: The Complete Series” (Universal Home Entertainment. $149.98), “Curb Your Enthusiasm: The Complete Seventh Season” (HBO Home Entertainment. $39.98), “Family Matters: The Complete First Season” (Warner Home Video. $29.98), “iCarly: iSaved Your Life” (Nickelodeon. $16.99), “Ice Road Truckers: The Complete Third Season” (A&E Home Entertainment. $49.95) and “Nip/Tuck: The Complete Sixth Season”(Warner Home Video. $59.98).

TCM SPOTLIGHT: CHARLIE CHAN COLLECTION (Warner Home Video. $39.98): By the time that it got to the four films commemorated in this box set, the long-running film series featuring the beloved detective created by Earl Derr Biggers had been reduced to a low-budget B-movie status far removed from its heyday a decade or so earlier. That said, as cheapo programmers from the 1940’s go, these aren’t too bad and fans of the Chan film will be delighted to finally be able to add these to their collections. The films included here are 1946’s “Dark Alibi” (directed by future B-movie favorite Phil Karlson), “Dangerous Money” and “The Trap” and 1947’s “The Chinese Ring” (directed by the immortal and insanely prolific William “One-Shot” Beaudine).

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originally posted: 06/12/10 06:10:18
last updated: 06/12/10 06:27:14
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