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March 10, 2010

Video TapeWorm

New, encore and low-price DVD releases on Tuesday, March 16

THIS WEEK’S TWIN PEEKS

ASTRO BOY

2009; $16.95-$24.95, PG

Astroboy is one of the longest-running, most successful characters in modern history, dating back to 1952 Japanese comic books, arriving as the first-ever anime in America in 1964 — a full three years before “Speed Racer” — and still it gets no respect. This latest version is a slick, CGI affair with lots of expensive voice talent including Freddie Highmore, Kristen Bell and Samuel L. Jackson. But its theater run was minimal and is clearly destined for lots of crappy video sequels. Definitely worth checking out, but our buddy Astro really deserved the whole “Iron Man” treatment.

THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG

2009; $16.95-$27.95, G

Disney Corp. tries once again to be more diverse — though still smarting from the whole “Pocahontas” fiasco — by making an Afrocentric classic fairytale with voicework by Anika Noni Rose, Terrence Howard and Oprah Winfrey. We liked it. We especially liked the noticeable lack of urban street slang, poppin’ and the “You ’da cow!” banalities that other studios have tried. And we especially liked the smooth, hand-drawn feel of the animation. Only the music is lacking, but that might just be a matter of preference. Check it out; we think Uncle Walt would approve.

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ARMORED

2009; $19.95-$38.95, PG-13

A terrific cadre of actors — Matt Dillon, Jean Reno, Laurence Fishburne, Skeet Ulrich and more — play hardworking security guards who drive armored cars. Until, that is, they decide to screw working for peanuts while hauling millions and decide to take the money for themselves. And everything is going to go down clean. And no one is going to get hurt. Yeah, right. A good, tight, buddy-buddy crime actioner with lots of likable faces, real heart and a nice soundtrack. What’s not to like?

BRIEF INTERVIEWS WITH HIDEOUS MEN

2010; $17.95, UR

This is a hoot and a half. Julianne Nicholson stars as a grad student, working under Timothy Hutton, who copes with her recent breakup by conducting, more or less, random interviews with, more or less, random men. The results, much of it ad-libbed, is occasionally priceless, sometimes sad, often just plain weird and always unpredictable. What does it all mean? Hell if we know, but it’s entertaining.

BROKEN EMBRACES

2009; $19.95-$28.95, R

Penélope Cruz once again makes screen magic with director Pedro Almodóvar. Cruz agrees to marry her wealthy, much older boss in return for help for her ill father. But she dreams of being an actress, leading to a romance with her director that infuriates her sugar-daddy husband. Doesn’t sound like much, but this is as good a movie as you’ll ever see.

DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THE MORGANS?

2009; $20.95, UR

Insipid Hugh Grant/Sarah Jessica Parker vehicle. Just say “no,” and maybe they’ll go away.

MILES FROM NOWHERE

2009; $13.95, UR

A young man’s guilt over the death of an athletic friend leads him to abandon everything in his life except for one physically impossible feat: to run a sub-4-minute mile in competition. Yeah, it’s from the usually dismal Hallmark Channel but ranks as one of the best sports movie we ever saw. With Andrew Lawrence and Treat Williams.

MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000: VOLUME XVII

2009; $44.95-$59.95, UR

This latest MST3K release contains two of their most-requested fan faves including “The Crawling Eye.” As if that weren’t enough, it features the insanely bad “Final Sacrifice” (about an ancient cult of Canadian wrestlers bent on world domination), “The Beatniks” (voiceover legend Paul Frees’ only live-action movie) and the simply indescribable “Blood Waters of Dr. Z” — aka “Hydra” and “Legend of the Zaat Monster” — a no-budget “Revenge of the Creature From the Black Lagoon” rip-off filmed at the same aquarium. Wonderful.

NINJA ASSASSIN

2009; $28.95, R

Ya gotta love this flick; it has one and only one goal: to be the most over-the-top martial-arts actioner possible. No technology is too expensive, no stunt too impossible — from digital blood-spurts to bullet-time one-handed decapitations, this is as good as it can be done in film today. With a classic Kung Fu storyline about orphans raised as brothers, now to fight as enemies, a great cast and eye-popping visuals, this is one kick-ass crazy movie.

PARIS

$17.95-$24.95, UR

While we weren’t bowled over by this Altman-esque indie French drama, it got great reviews by those who are into that sort of thing. And we’ve sat through worse to marvel at Juliette Binoche (“The English Patient” comes to mind … eww) and Melanie Laurent (“Inglourious Basterds”).

THE FOURTH KIND

2009; $17.95, PG-13

A complete and total alien-abduction misfire by Milla Jovovich, supposedly filled with “actual recordings made during hypnotic regression,” all of them exposed as fake before the movie’s release. It would probably never have seen the light of day if not for the recent success of “Paranormal Activity.” That being said, a lot of people liked this turkey, and we’d watch Milla read a phone book.

THE TWILIGHT SAGA: NEW MOON

2009; $20.95-$21.95, PG-13

Latest in the sparkly teen vampire bodice-ripper franchise — and one thrown together so fast that they reportedly started shooting the movie before scripts existed! More of the same with additional werewolf CGI (poorly done) and a bright young cast including Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner, the incredible Dakota Fanning and Billy Burke. The next in the series, “Eclipse,” is already in post-production with Bryce Dallas Howard replacing Rachelle Lefevre as Victoria.

WONDERFUL WORLD

2010; $20.95-$24.95, R

Matthew Broderick occasionally reminds us that he really can act. Case in point: this quiet romantic drama wherein he is an everyman with a dark world view, made worse by his roommate’s sudden medical problems. But when roomie’s sister, the breathtaking Sanaa Lathan, comes to help out, it affects both men’s outlook. 

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