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Once Upon a Time in the West

April 26, 2011

Video TapeWorm

New, encore and low-price releases on Tuesday, May 3

THIS WEEK’S TWIN PEEKS:

ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST

1968; $24.95, PG-13

Simply put: The greatest spaghetti western ever made, now on Blu-ray. With a story by Sergio Leone, Bernardo Bertolucci and Dario Argento, starring steely-eyed killer Henry Fonda and tough-as-nails beauty Claudia Cardinale, and shot in Monument Valley — site of John Ford’s best oaters — the pedigree is undeniable. But tie them all together with majestic wide-screen filmmaking (especially the close-ups), and you have something twisted, unique and wildly entertaining. Trust us, this is a must-own video.

SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT

1955; $39.95, UR

Legendary filmmaker Ingmar Bergman toiled in anonymity for a decade or more, turning out 15 largely ignored movies before making this, his breakout film. Set in the early 1900s, a quartet of attractive Swedish couples takes a weekend trip to the countryside for some flirting, courtship and friendly banter. But the women decide to teach the men what it’s like to be seen as a “conquest,” turning the tables in a seductive, erotic comedy that has never been equaled. A Blu-ray/Criterion release starring Gunnar Björnstrand, Harriet Andersson and other Bergman stalwarts. Recommended.

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BHUTTO

2011; $27.95, UR

Imagine what it would take for a woman in a Muslim country — considered by her culture and family as little more than brainless livestock — to seek public office. Now imagine what kind of woman it would take to lead the entire nation. That is the story told here in this excellent bio-doc of Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto.

BLOOMINGTON

2011; $24.95, UR

A real nice indie lesbian romantic drama about a former child actress (Sarah Stouffer, who could pass for 16), now a college freshman, who becomes the sex toy of an aggressive and predatory female professor (Allison McAtee).

COUGARS, INC.

2011; $26.95-$29.95, R

A group of young college failures start an older-woman escort service with spicy — if wrinkled — fringe benefits. An overproduced mess of a film that wants to be a coming-of-age dramedy, but whose only saving grace is a winning performance by the always stunning Denise Richards.

FROM PRADA TO NADA

2011; $19.95, PG-13

Silly “rich girls must survive without money” tweenie-comedy starring leggy Latin twosome Camilla Belle and Alexa Vega. What’s not to like?

GUY AND MADELINE ON A PARK BENCH

2011; $29.95, UR

We hate to admit it, but this is one of the most stirring movies we’ve seen in a coon’s age. Imagine one of those old 1940s romantic-comedy musicals, set to a jazz score by Miles Davis — and everyone wears tap shoes! Sound stupid? Well, duh! But it’s also one helluvalotta fun for adventurous film freaks. Gritty, very European and certainly different.

IDENTITY

2011; $39.95, UR

Nobody churns out top-notch TV detective programs like the British. This one reminds us of “CSI,” but instead of forensics, the topic is identity theft — or more precisely, “WHY did this person steal that person’s identity?” Intelligent, brilliantly written and featuring a top-notch Limey cast. Catch it now before some overpaid U.S. TV hack makes a lame ’merican version.

KUNG FU DUNK

2008; $26.95, UR

This modern mash-up of teenage martial arts and basketball is a hoot. A young Jay Chou enters the Kung Fu orphanage and leaves as a teen after trashing a disco. But now he’s on a mission to use his lightning-fast skills to play b-ball and find his lost family. Big dumb fun.

MAO’S LAST DANCER

2009; $26.95, UR

A breathtaking bio-drama of Li Cunxin, the dancer considered a national treasure in China, whose defection to America in 1981 climaxed in a 21-hour armed hostage incident in Houston. But that’s only part of the fun, as master-dancer Chi Cao faithfully recreates Li’s extraordinary talent, with help from Bruce Greenwood, Kyle MacLachlan, Joan Chen and others. Extremely entertaining.

MY OWN LOVE SONG

2010; $26.95, UR

One truly awful drama starring Renée Zellweger, Nick Nolte and Forest Whitaker, with a soundtrack from Bob Dylan’s 2009 album, Together Through Life. Would make the perfect “Howler Party”: You have to take a drink whenever someone in the film says or does something stupid. You won’t last 10 minutes.

SYNC OR SWIM

2011; $24.95, UR

A fun documentary on the dumbest “sport” on Earth: synchronized swimming. Follows the travails of the 2004 U.S. Olympic team — most of them high-schoolers — as they dedicate their lives to ridicule, virginity and swimmer’s ear.

THE DILEMMA

2011; $29.95, PG-13

Ron Howard’s directorial magic almost meets its match in this screwy rom-com-drama starring Vince Vaughn and Kevin James. The boys do their usual overfed-man-child shtick, which all but sinks the film until winsome Jennifer Connelly pulls it together with help from Winona Ryder and Queen Latifah. Channing Tatum’s in there somewhere.

THE GREEN HORNET

2011; $28.95-$49.95, PG-13

You can lay this disaster clearly at the feet of Seth Rogen. He’s the one who assembled a good cast — especially Jay Chou as Kato and Christoph Waltz as the bad guy — then hands them a script full of lame sight-gags, lamer action sequences and badly timed one-liners. Even the presence of Cameron Diaz doesn’t help. Just say no.

THE SKULL/THE MAN WHO COULD CHEAT DEATH

2010; $16.95, UR

A pair of first-rate Hammer/Amicus films from the colorful ’60s in a cheap pairing ON BLU-RAY! “The Skull,” of course, features Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee battling over the skull of the Marquis de Sade. The extended, dialogue-free shocker-finale has never been topped. And “Man” stars Anton Diffring as a surgeon who finds the key to life eternal, but at a terrible price. He’s admirably assisted by Christopher Lee and the beautiful Hazel Court. Recommended.

WAITING FOR FOREVER

2010; $22.95-$29.95, PG-13

A sweet, old-fashioned love story starring ravishing, brown-eyed Rachel Bilson, Tom Sturridge and Richard Jenkins. A super-nice-guy street performer lives a life free from entanglements, then rediscovers his childhood sweetheart. But her life is, as they say, “complicated,” which makes their reunion somewhat guarded. Co-stars Blythe Danner, Nikki Blonsky and Jaime King.

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