Issue November 5, 2014

Video Tapeworm

(Dear Readers: Bill is back on the job again after spending last week in the pokie — and learning all too well what that term implies — for abusing a popular men’s magazine. He was released after the Commonwealth was found guilty of not minding its own business.)

 

This Week’s Twin Peeks

 

THE COMPLEAT AL

2014; $17.98–19.98; UR 

This mockumentary rocks, even if you aren’t (gasp!) a fan of “Weird Al” Yankovic. From his earliest childhood through his Grammy wins, it is damned hard to figure out what is real and what is BS here as family, friends, bill collectors, subpoena servers and law enforcement explain what could have twisted a seemingly normal young man into the parody prankster we know and love today. Beyond a walk through his greatest hits, the highlight for us was the “real” story of how he got Michael Jackson’s permission to make “Eat It.” Our highest recommendation.

UHF

1989; $20.98–22.98; PG-13 

The very welcome 25th Anniversary Blu-Ray release of an all-but-forgotten and very underrated comedy. “Weird Al” Yankovic, in his first big-screen starring role, becomes the manager of a TV station swirling the bowl. He’s been set up to fail by his evil uncle, but his crazy ideas — like the new show “Wheel of Fish” and a nightly drag-queen parade — turn out to be big hits with viewers. How could he possibly fail with co-stars like pre-“SNL” Victoria Jackson as his girlfriend, pre-“Seinfeld” Michael Richards as a singing janitor, pre-“The Nanny” Fran Drescher, the great Sue Ane Langdon, and Kevin “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” McCarthy? God help us — we love this movie!

 

Other DVDs of Interest

 

DOLLS

1987; $26.98; R 

From the heyday of the slasher flick comes this welcome collaboration of macabre movie masters, finally available on Blu-Ray. Stuart “Re-Animator” Gordon, Brian Yuzna of the vastly underrated “Progeny” and Ed “Troll” Naha teamed up to breathe life into a pack of stuffed animals, then set them loose upon a group of nasty stranded travelers. And what a cast: Ian Patrick Williams and Carolyn Purdy-Gordon from “Reanimator,” little Carrie “Alf” Lorraine, who ended her acting career in this turkey, Guy “Toulon” Rolfe from the “Puppet Master” franchise, and MTV video vixen Bunty Bailey are just a few of the squishy morsels on display. Funny, bloody and stupid, as God intended.

 

DRIVE HARD

2014; $18.98; UR 

What a terrible title! Former race driver Thomas “The Punisher” Jane now works as a driving instructor. Then new student John Cusack(!) hijacks him to be the getaway driver in a multimillion-dollar heist! And there are mobsters on their tail! Plus a bunch of crooked cops, all of whom want them dead! Yeah, that’s relatable. One stupid, stupid, stupid movie, filled with entertaining guy stuff. But stupid. Of course we liked it.

 

HAPPY CHRISTMAS

2014; $19.98; R 

We were expecting a lame Hallmark cable movie, but this thing has teeth. Melanie Lynskey (“Two and a Half Men”) stars as a quiet mother/homemaker whose household is invaded by crazy-hot sister-in-law Anna Kendrick (“Life After Beth”). Mark Webber from “Scott Pilgrim” is terrific as the girl’s new squeeze, a dope-dealing baby-sitter, for writer/director/co-star Joe Swanberg, who uses the chaos to explore how women deal with change, using equal parts drama and humor. Worth your time.

 

I AM ALI

2014; $19.98; PG 

There have been many good docs on Muhammad Ali, including 1977’s “The Greatest” and 1969’s breathless “Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee,” but for our money, this is the most entertaining and complete. The best parts are the many private moments shared for the first time — often through letters and never-before-heard tape recordings — of friends and family, many now deceased, and copious family photos shot in that vibrant period of ‘50s–’60s Louisville. As cocky and brash as a youngster as he would be as a world champion, it is clear that the city shaped him as much as any person. Very intimate, warm and respectful, but not afraid to show the warts.

 

JERSEY BOYS

2014; $22.98; R 

Clint Eastwood’s directorial hand is all over this big-screen adaptation of the popular musical based on the life of The Four Seasons and their iconic lead singer, Frankie Valli. And that’s a good thing, as he delves deeper into the crime, poverty and social fabric that forged their union and kept them together when these same forces would pull them apart. The great cast, goombas all, are largely little-known actors, such as John Lloyd Young (“Oy Vey! My Son Is Gay!!”) as Valli, with only enough old hands (Christopher Walken, soaper Lou Volpe) to give it gravitas. A terrific tale well told.

 

RENO 911: THE COMPLETE SERIES

2014; $32.98–45.98; UR 

What a steal! All six seasons of Comedy Central’s flagship irreverent “Cops” parody in one massive 14-disc boxed set. The roll call is complete: from Lt. Jim Dangle (Thomas Lennon) in his too-short short-shorts, to brutal, racist Dep. James Garcia (Carlos Alazraqui), to Dep. Raineesha “Hey! I’m Black!” Williams (Niecy Nash) — and they’re all out there bustin’ heads and takin’ names. Our favorite character has to be Dep. Clementine Johnson (Wendi McLendon-Covey, most recently of “The Goldbergs”), the blonde, contemptuous former magician’s assistant who raised “skanky” to a new level. No bonus goodies, but with comedy this good, who needs them?

 

TAMMY

2014; $22.98; R 

Melissa McCarthy is at her best when her naturally warm, funny side is battling the inequities of life, as in the early days of “Mike & Molly.” Unfortunately she’s becoming pigeonholed as the “loud, stupid, fat woman” in a series of ever more clueless comedies. This is the latest in that slide from grace, livened considerably by Susan Sarandon as the addled grandma who offers up her car — as long as she can ride shotgun — when McCarthy decides to bolt her dismal life and broken marriage. There’s a spark of McCarthy’s true charm here, and it makes the flick very watchable, but we’re still waiting for her breakout role.

 

*** More Recommended Videos for our On-Line Readers, Only!

 

BORGEN: THE COMPLETE SERIES

2014; $119.98; UR 

What does Stephen King watch when he turns on the TV? This amazing drama series from Denmark! With the international press-corps desperate to feed their relentless 24-hour news machine, idealistic female Prime Minister Sidse Babett Knudsen comes into office almost accidentally, unprepared for the ruthless machinations which come at her from every side. Incredibly well written – and with welcome Nordic blonde nudity – the action takes place on an immense scale where nothing can be taken at face value, yet ultimately always plops bleeding on the PM’s doorstep, her every reaction under the microscope of smokin’-hot newswoman, Birgitte Hjort Sørensen. Makes “West Wing” look like a day-care: the absolute best political thriller ever made for the small screen. All three season on twelve discs.

 

COLDWATER

2013; $21.98; UR 

P.J. Boudousqué from “American Horror Story” shines in this earthy drama as a troubled teen, shipped off to a wilderness reform-camp under the oppressive thumb of a hard-as-nails former Army colonel (“Call Of Duty” vidgame voice-artist James C. Burns). Savage, brutal and eye-opening – though never gratuitous – the filmmaker’s aim is to reveal just how abusive our society is to those who most need our help, and how the cycle escalates when they don’t get it. The young, largely unknown cast is exceptional, particularly big-eyed Stephanie Simbari and punk Chris Petrovski. Recommended.

 

DEMONS

1985; $19.98-22.98; UR 

Horro-masters Dario Argento and Lamberto Bava famously joined forces for this mid-80s splatterfest, a Heavy Metal wet dream for gore hounds. Obnoxious Berlin movie freaks are invited to view a “new experience in terror” by a strange man wearing a silver mask. Once locked in the theater, one of the girls is scratched, turning her into a flesh-ripping demon, a condition which ripples through her victims until the theater is a writhing mass of intestines, blood and salty popcorn – all to a screaming soundtrack from the Scorpions, Motley Crue, and Billy Idol. Finally available on a full-featured Blu-Ray, as is the sequel, “Demons 2” (1986, same price).

 

ICEMAN

2014; $37.98; R 

The great Donnie Yen stars in this time-traveling martial arts flick, the first in new franchise. He plays a disgraced palace guard, battling a trio of former childhood-friends-turned-bad, all of whom wind up frozen for 400 years. Defrosted in the present, they continue their battle while adapting to the many strange excesses of modern life. Shanghai Maxim babe Shengyi Huang is perfect as the requisite beauty, and the MA finale on the fabled Tsing Ma bridge is one of Yen’s best, though the rest of the movie arguably suffers from too much plot. Not perfect, but fun to watch while we wait for his breakout role.

 

JAMES CAMERON’S DEEPSEA CHALLENGE 3D

2014; $24.98; PG 

Surely by now everyone knows of James “Titanic” Cameron’s record-smashing trip to the deepest spot on Earth, seven miles to the bottom of the Mariana Trench in a never-before tested new submarine of his own design. And he did it all just so that you could enjoy this amazing footage, not only documenting life at pressures that would crush a human to the size of a tomato seed, but to let you thrill to every screech, bump and groan as the fragile knife-shaped craft slips ever closer to certain death. Helluva way to make a living, but what a way to live! Don’t miss this.

 

LADY VALOR: THE KRISTIN BECK STORY

2014; $24.98; UR 

Former Navy SEAL Christopher Beck wanted to serve his country and uphold all its high-minded ideals. So he took stock in himself and decided to become that which he always felt he was meant to be: a woman. This doc looks at her life before and after the surgeries, highlighted by intimate interviews with family, friends and loved ones – and especially their shocked reactions to her famous coming-out … live on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360”! Then, in a nice follow-up, it updates us on what she has learned about America, its people, and its ideals since the re-plumb.

 

MY MENTAL CHOICES ARE COMPLETELY INTERFERING WITH MY SCHOOL ROMANTIC COMEDY

2014; $44.98-59.98; UR 

Kanade is a highschooler cursed with “Absolute Choices”: he must choose his actions from a floating menu of limited options, just like in a video game, and sometimes there simply aren’t any good choices in the list. One such choice causes Chocolat, a beautiful girl, to literally fall from the sky, sent from the God World to focus his aimless selections into a profound mission from on high. Does this sound like anything you’ve ever seen in your life? Of course not, and THAT’S why we love anime! Sweet, sexy, truly original, silly, profound and nuanced; based on a series of YA novels which became a hit manga in 2013.

 

QUINCY, M.E.: SEASON 7

1982; $35.98-39.98; UR 

The progenitor of today’s many “CSI” knockoffs, Jack “Odd Couple” Klugman plays the titular gruff, ornery L.A. Medical Examiner, who each week gets himself into and out of all manner of trouble using his vast knowledge of forensics and a razor-honed wit. By season 7 the show was deep in the grips of 80’s “cause of the week” syndrome, with each episode highlighting a particular societal ill. Some of the better include emergency care, cruise-ship epidemics (a nice 2-parter), drunk driving, hospice, fraternity Hell Weeks, cancer, and toxic dumping. Watch for two appearances by then-unknown Jonathan “Cmd. Will Riker” Frakes in bit-parts this season.

 

SNAILS IN THE RAIN

2013; $24.98; UR 

Set in Israel, 1989, first-time actor Yoav Reuveni plays a man in a loving relationship with a beautiful woman, Moran Rosenblatt. Then he receives the first in a series of disturbing gay love letters from someone who hides his sexuality from the rest of the world, and implies that his recipient is living the same lie. This begins a paranoid, obsessive search for the sender, and a re-evaluation of his own long-suppressed feelings toward other men. One of the more intelligent Gay films of recent date, and one which allows the female characters full dramatic parity.

 

SOUTHERN BAPTIST SISSIES

2013; $19.98; UR 

A painful, intimate, insightful, funny and ultimately hopeful drama about the hurdles of growing up queer in the Southern Baptist Church. Taught from birth that who they are is unforgivably sinful – that they are going to rot in Hell for all eternity – a quartet of young people take turns expressing their innermost hopes and fears, in case the God they pray to really is better than the self-righteous buttholes standing before the pews every Sunday. Worth your time.

 

STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS: THE LOST MISSIONS

2014; $39.98; PG 

 

This is the first time we’ve ever set down and actually watched any of the oft-maligned animated Star Wars “in-between-quel” saga from George Lucas. Much better than we expected, and this set seems particularly dramatic since it represents the final 13 episodes, after Cartoon Network unexpectedly pulled the plug a season-and-a-half early. Includes the Syfo-Dias arc, which fans herald as the best of the entire series and ends nicely with Yoda traveling to the Sith home world of Moraband for a truly well-executed encounter with the ultimate evil in the Universe (which we suspect is going to be revisited in the next Star Wars movie).

 

 

A more complete listing and free vids at videotapeworm.com.