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March 25, 2014

Video TapeWorm

New, encore and low-price releases on Tuesday, April 1

THIS WEEK’S TWIN PEEKS:

47 RONIN

2013; $19.98-$49.98; PG-13

The legend of the 47 Ronin has been filmed about a half-dozen times, most famously in 1957 (Kunio Watanabe) and 1962 (as “Chushingura” by Hiroshi Inagaki), but this is Keanu Reeves’ all-new, all-out-CGI-effects blockbuster. He plays Kai, an outcast who joins, then leads, an army of banished Samurai warriors in their quest for vengeance and honor. Treated more as fantasy than in previous incarnations, purists (and Keanu bashers) have balked at the overblown effects and magical elements, but we found it a solid and entertaining attempt to make the dense historical material properly mystical, timeless and exciting. What can we say? We liked it!

ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES

2013; $16.98-$57.98; PG-13/R

As regular readers know (support groups standing by), we’re not big fans of Will Ferrell. That being said, “Anchorman” was one of the few Ferrell films we liked, and this sequel may be even better. It’s now the ’80s, the decade of 24-hour news startups, and clueless Ron Burgundy has again stumbled into a goldmine. Any more plot would be redundant, because the real fun is allowing the great repeat cast — including Christina Applegate, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd and David Koechner — to run amok in one of the densest decades in American history. Also available in a bonus pack with a pair of men’s briefs to “provide ample support for your little anchorman.”

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AN UNREAL DREAM: THE MICHAEL MORTON STORY

2013; $24.98; UR

This biodoc is absolutely devastating, not just because it recounts the 1986 murder of a young wife and her husband’s punishment for the crime, but due to its flat, spare, evening-TV-news style. Michael Morton always declared his innocence but was nonetheless railroaded into a jail cell for life. Then, nearly 25 years later, DNA evidence found at the scene — but not presented at his trial — is finally tested, exonerating Morton. Frightening and powerful.

AT MIDDLETON

2013; $24.98-$29.98; R

A cinematic treasure; a brilliant, lyrical romcom/parody that works on every level. Andy Garcia and Vera Farmiga meet while taking their teens on a tour of a college campus. In time, they ditch the kids and go on a silly romantic romp that’s also a brilliantly written spoof of every college movie ever made. And the kids? They’re played by Taissa “American Horror Story” Farmiga (sister of Vera) and Spencer “Jamesy Boy” Lofranco — who nearly steals the movie from the two acting vets! It’s all about life, love, fun and “finding yourself.” Our highest recommendation.

CAMPAIGN OF HATE: RUSSIA AND GAY PROPAGANDA

2014; $17.98; UR

Russia — and, for that matter, most of the world — uses the term “decadent” to describe capitalist societies, the U.S. in particular. But their constant haranguing has lost its edge of late, so they’ve decided to focus on a specific target — gays — as a symbol of the West to attract new adherents. This doc looks at the recent rise in Soviet homophobia in all its forms and the way in which violence and repression have escalated to a murderous frenzy. Difficult to watch but required viewing, regardless of your orientation.

GEORGE GENTLY, SERIES 6

2013; $49.98-$59.98; UR

Another excellent season of Britain’s greatest master sleuth, solving murders most foul in England’s late-’60s North country. Martin Shaw is simply incredible as the detective, a WWII vet who scolds and taunts and teaches ambitious sidekick Detective Sergeant Lee Ingleby the finer points of catching a killer hiding in plain sight. But let it be said that the world of George Gently is anything but gentle; in this season, the two are just back on the job after a six-month recuperation from wounds received in Series 5! Gently is clearly shaken by the experience yet remains always in control. And through it all he exudes warmth and compassion that will take your breath away. Four discs of TV at its finest.

POWER RANGERS: SEASONS 13-17

2014; $116.98-$129.98; UR

The Power Rangers juggernaut continues, starting with 2005’s Power Rangers “S.P.D” (“Special Police Dekaranger”): Peaceful aliens have settled on a near-future Earth while cadets train at the Ranger Academy — until evil baddies arise and the cadets must come together as a fighting team! The other four seasons in this set are Power Rangers “Mystic Force,” “Operation Overdrive,” “Jungle Fury” and “R.P.M.” What more could a Rangers fan want? How about boxing it all up nicely and adding an entire disc of bonus goodies? But this is a limited-edition release; when they’re gone, it’s gonna be an “SPD! Emergency!” We are such geeks.

PSYCH: THE COMPLETE EIGHTH SEASON

2014; $50.98-$59.98; UR

James Roday and Dulé Hill may be the damn-lucky bullshitters who solve crimes “psychically” in this featherweight USA Network series, but everyone in Louisville knows the real star is the lovely and talented Maggie Lawson. Born and raised in the River City, she attended Assumption High, did lots of local theater and hosted her own TV news reports at the age of 10! She’s particularly good in this season’s “Someone’s Got a Woody” episode. No great mystery in that, is there? Enjoy.

STORY OF MEDICINE: PAIN PUS & POISON

2014; $34.98-$39.98; UR

What a great title! And the video is just as entertaining (and revolting) as Dr. Michael Mosley explains how humans have taken control of their own physical evolution in ways that are usually dangerous, stupid, ill-advised and (on rare occasion) damn lucky. The result? Big Pharma, eradication of much disease, longer life spans, super-bugs and fewer deaths by leechcraft. The doctor is clearly having a ball with this material, and we got caught up in his enthusiasm right from the beginning. Too much icky fun.

WHEN JEWS WERE FUNNY

2013; $24.98; UR

Warning: You should cover your couch in plastic before watching this vid. Yes, we literally peed our pants laughing at the non-stop litany of gags and tales from across the history of Jewish comics in America. Like who? How about Rodney Dangerfield, Gilbert Gottfried, Howie Mandel, David Steinberg, Shelley Berman, Jackie Mason, Henny Youngman, David Brenner, and Shecky Greene, just to skim the surface. From the Borsht Belt to the heady days of radio, early TV, Uncle Miltie, Jack Benny and Groucho Marx; now this is comedy.

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