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DVD Reviews For 6/16: "Only A Ninja... Can Destroy A Ninja."
by Peter Sobczynski

If you are in the mood for zombie-based romance, grim weirdness from Serbia or pointless revisions of classic tales aimed at ADD-afflicted viewers, you are in luck this week. On the bright side, "Ninja III--The Domination" finally hits Blu-Ray and that certainly has to count for something.


CLIP (Artsploitation. $29.95): For those of you who have enjoyed the likes of "A Serbian Film" and have been waiting for more horrifying hijinks from that land, this grim example of the youth-run-wild sub-genre, in which an insolent and overly sexualized teen girl with a predictably unhappy home life goes to great lengths to catch the attention of anyone willing to show her even the slightest bit of interest will be filling that particular void in your soul. There are plenty of close-up depictions of oral sex, ejaculations and pubic hair shaving on display along with the expected smorgasbord of graphic sex and brutal violence and if it had been directed by a male filmmaker, it would no doubt be dismissed as hateful and overly sordid crap bereft of a point or any remotely likable or interesting characters. As it turns out, it was made by a woman, Maja Milos, and yet, it is still all that and more. On the bright side, there is a title card at the end that assures viewers that no underage actors were utilized during the scenes involving the overly sexual material. Whew!

A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD (Fox Home Entertainment. $29.98): THe once-proud action film franchise hits rock-bottom with this painfully uninspired entry in which John McClane (Bruce WIllis, never more bored) blasts his way through Russia in order to help his estranged son(), who just happens to be a secret government agent, do something or other that involves a lot of stuff blowing up in a decidedly unexciting manner. Nothing about the film works--McClane is a boor, both his son and the bad guys are bores and the action scenes lack any sort of zip--and the whole thing has such a tack and lazy feel to it that makes the likes of "Superman IV" and "Death Wish V" seem focused and committed by comparison.

HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS (Paramount Home Video. $29.99): Did you ever speculate as to what the fairy tale characters Hansel & Gretel did after escaping the witch that was going to eat them by shoving her into her own oven? No? Really--never once? Well, that may explain why few turned out to see this long-delayed mess featuring the now-adult duo (played by Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton) battling the forces of evil wit their cunning, their surprisingly advanced weaponry and plenty of CGI assistance. Way too violent for kids and far too childish for adults, this might have been an instant candidate for Most Unnecessary Revision Of A Classic Childhood Story Of 2013 but, as you will see later in this column, there is a lot of competition for that award.

IDENTITY THIEF (Universal Home Entertainment. $29.98): Jason Bateman continues his streak of desperately unfunny comedies with this slog in which he plays an affable guy who, for reasons that defy explanation, goes in search of the person who has stolen his identity and destroyed his credit and it turns out to be a brash and bold bunco artist played by Melissa McCarthy (Her?). Hijinks ensue but none of them are very funny, aside from a couple of moments towards the end where it tries to be sensitive and sympathetic. Put it this way--unless things turn around quickly, 2013 is not going to go down as a particularly great year for screen comedy and this is one of the main reasons why.

IT'S A DISASTER (Oscilloscope. $29.99): One of several apocalyptically-minded comedies to emerge this year, this indie effort centers on four couples (whose ranks include Julia Stiles, David Cross and America Ferrara) whose weekly brunch is turned upside down when some massive disaster outside forces them to remain inside the house with each other indefinitely and things quickly take a turn for the insane. This is an okay stab at Bunuel-like social satire and even though it never quite comes together in the end--though that may be the point--it does have a few funny moments here and there and I suppose that if one must be trapped in the company of a few others for possibly forever, you could do a lot worse than draw the likes of Stiles, Ferrara and Cross.

JACK THE GIANT SLAYER (Warner Home Video. $29.99): In this staggeringly uninteresting revision of "Jack and the Beanstalk"--directed by Bryan Singer, of all people--Nicholas Hoult plays the unassuming hero who does battle with evil Stanley Tucci and a bunch of jumbo-sized giants to save a beautiful princess from some horrible fate). Unlike the conceptually idiotic "Hansel & Gretel," this might have actually worked in the right hands but the whole thing is just a noisy blast that tries so hard to dazzle viewers in virtually every frame that it forgets to entertain them as well.

THE NEWSROOM: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (HBO Home Entertainment. 59.99): After having shown how much smarter he is than the world of television on such shows as "Sports Night," the sitcom that was just too good and pure to actually be funny, and the immortal "Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip," a program that even Amanda Peet has blocked from her memory, acclaimed writer and hallucinogenic mushroom enthusiast Aaron Sorkin returned to the medium with this wildly overblown series chronicling the behind-the-scenes drama at a cable news network that bears about as much resemblance to contemporary broadcast journalism as "The West Wing" did to actual politics. Admittedly, the show has its supporters but any program where Sam Waterston doesn't play the most self-righteous character is one that should be approached very carefully. Other TV-related titles now available include "The Big C: Season 3" (Sony Home Entertainment. $35.99), "Breaking Bad: The Fifth Season" (Sony Home Entertainment. $55.99), "Burn Notice: Season Six" (Fox Home Entertainment. $49.98), "Fairly Legal: Season Two" (Universal Home Entertainment. $34.98), "Falling Skies: The Complete Second Season" (Warner Home Video. $39.98)[/], "The Glades: Season 3" (Fox Home Entertainment. $29.99), "House of Cards: The Complete First Season" (Sony Home Entertainment. $55.99), "Major Crimes: The Complete First Season" (Warner Home Video. $39.98), "Perry Mason--The Ninth And Final Season" (Paramount Home Video. $45.98), "Pretty Little Liars: The Complete Third Season" (Warner Home Video. $59.98), "Ring of Fire" (A&E Home Entertainment. $19.98) and "Rizzoli & Isles: The Complete Third Season" (Warner Home Video. $39.98).

NINJA III: THE DOMINATION (Shout! Factory. $26.99): Have you ever watched a ninja movie and thought to yourself "Sure, this is all ninja-like and whatnot but man, they really should have added some aerobics and demonic possession into the mix"? Well, as fans of this 1984 cult oddity can assure you, they did, once upon a time, and the end results are just as jaw-dropping now as they were back in the day. Lucinda Dickey, later to star in the equally immortal "Breakin'" movies, stars as a part-time aerobics instructor who is possessed by the spirit of an evil ninja and begins killing off his enemies until her boyfriend recruits a noble ninja (martial-arts legend Sho Kosugi) to help exorcise and defeat the demon within her. Yes, it is just as crazy as it sounds and, for those with a taste for such exploitation weirdness, it is just as glorious as well. This Blu-Ray includes a commentary by director Sam Firstenberg and stunt coordinator Steve Lambert that is all the more hilarious because they still seem to be taking it somewhat seriously. If you prefer your martial-arts extravaganzas a little more straightforward, this week also sees the Blu-Ray release of "Enter the Dragon: 40th Anniversary Edition" (Warner Home Video. $49.99).

OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL (Walt Disney Home Entertainment. $29.99): In what appears to be an attempt to make the awful "Alice in Wonderland" revision look staid and coherent by comparison, this garish prequel to "The Wizard of Oz" explains how small-time circus magician James Franco got zapped to Oz and found himself embroiled in a battle for control of the land between the comely likes of Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz and Mila Kunis. There are a couple of nice moments early on but before long, director Sam Raimi lets the effects take over the store and fails to give the proceedings even the slightest hint of character or personality. Millions saw it but I can't imagine that many of them were that enthused with the end results--you are better off sticking with either the 1939 classic "The Wizard of Oz" or the underrated 1985 semi-sequel "Return to Oz," which combined spellbinding special effects with a nifty (though admittedly dark) story that plays much better now than it did back then.

ROCKSHOW (Eagle Rock Entertainment. $29.98): Shot during the same 1975-76 tour that would yield the massive "Wings Across America" album, this 1981 film--long unavailable on home video and only then in a cut-down version--captures Paul McCartney and Wings in concert in Seattle as they run through a 28-song set of Wings tunes and Beatles classics. Made back in the day when concert films were little more than indifferently shot tour souvenirs, this is not a particularly good movie by any stretch of the imagination--the visuals rarely rise above endless shots up McCartney's nose as he sings and the energy wanes considerably during the songs that did not go on to become hugely popular hits--but McCartney fans will hardly mind and as a time capsule of what mega-tours looked like nearly 40 years ago, it is not without interest.

SNITCH (Summit Entertainment. $29.95): After his idiot son gets caught in the middle of the most unsubtle drug bust in screen history, a strait-laced dad (Dwayne Johnson) agrees to go undercover for the government and entrap others into equally specious busts in order to win his son's freedom. Rotten both dramatically (the kid is such a dull-witted brat that Dad's exertions to win his freedom hardly seem worth the effort) and ethically (the pro-entrapment perspective plays even odder thanks to the presence of suspected liberal Susan Sarandon playing the role of the district attorney making the deals without any trace of irony), the film is noxious and boring in equal measures and not even the usually engaging Johnson can do much with the material.

WARM BODIES (Summit Entertainment. $29.95): After a bizarre affliction transforms most of the world's populace into zombies, one young flesh-eater (NIcholas Hoult) meets one of the last pretty blonde humans (Teresa Palmer) and falls in love with her instantly--well, after killing and eating the brains of her living boyfriend, of course. After he shows his affection by not eating her, she develops feelings of a sort for him as well and this kicks off an unexpected chain of events that just might save humanity after all, though not if her madman military general father (John Malkovich) has anything to say about it. When this came out last winter, I panned it despite having a few bright moments because I never felt that it found the right tone for the material. I still feel that way but upon a second viewing, I must admit that it does play a little better and that the chemistry between the two young leads certainly beats anything on display in the entire "Twilight" series.

WRONG (Image Entertainment. $27.97): In this follow-up to his directorial debut, the killer tire (you heard me) cult favorite "Rubber," writer-director Quentin Dupieux offers up an even-more-bizarre saga about an ordinary man who wakes up one morning to discover that his beloved dog has disappeared and his efforts to track him down cause him to cross paths with an over-sexualized pizza delivery girl, a neighbor obsessed with jogging, trees that transform from one species to the next overnight and a self-styled guru whose self-help program is based around dognapping. It is all just as self-consciously weird as "Rubber" (I haven't even mention the clock the goes to 7:60 AM or the office where it appears to be constantly raining inside) but the premise this time around simply isn't as arresting and after a while, the stabs at surreality grown increasingly tiresome. Dupieux is not without talent but if he wants to be the next Charlie Kaufman or Spike Jonze, he needs to realize that without an compelling story, even the best non-sequiturs in the world will lose their appeal before too long.


AT LONG LAST LOVE (Fox Home Entertainment. $29.98)

DRIVEN (Warner Home Video. $19.98)

EARTHQUAKE (Universal Home Entertainment. $19.98)

ELECTRA GLIDE IN BLUE (Shout! Factory. $19.97)

ESCAPE FROM PLANET EARTH (Starz/Anchor Bay Home Entertainment. $29.98)

THE MAD MAX TRILOGY (Warner Home Video. $49.99)

THE MANSON FAMILY (Severin Films. $24.95)

MIDWAY (Universal Home Entertainment. $19.98)

THE ODD COUPLE (Paramount Home Video. $19.98)

RUNNING SCARED (Warner Home Video. $19.98)

THE SHADOW (Universal Home Entertainment. $19.98

SNEAKERS (Universal Home Video. $34.98)

WILD STRAWBERRIES (The Criterion Collection. $39.95)

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originally posted: 06/17/13 08:08:15
last updated: 06/17/13 22:37:09
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