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DVD Pick of the week: MORE BRAINS! A RETURN TO THE LIVING DEAD

(Michael Perez Entertainment/CAV Distributing)

The 1985 zombie classic Return of the Living Dead is the subject of this delightful documentary feature that, if anything, is even better than the movie it’s about!

Hosted by Brian Peck, who played “Scuz” in the original film and appeared in two of the follow-ups, this thorough and enjoyable — to say nothing of thoroughly enjoyable — chronicle examines the film’s origins, its often-tumultuous production, and subsequent status as a cult classic.

Among those interviewed are actors Clu Gulager, James Karen, Don Calfa, Jewel Shepard, Linnea Quigley, Beverly Randolph (also an executive producer) and Peck, who discuss with great candor their experiences. The documentary also includes the final in-depth, on-camera interview with screenwriter/director Dan O’Bannon, who died in ’09. When he expresses his affection and appreciation to the fans, it adds a bittersweet punctuation to the proceedings. More than just brains, More Brains! has heart. An absolute must for “Dead Heads.”


CARS 2 (Disney Pixar): This follow-up to the 2006 animated hit is more of the same, with the centerpiece being an international road race and the focus shifting from Lightning McQueen (voice by Owen Wilson) to sidekick Tow Mater (voice by Larry the Cable Guy). The star-studded voiceover cast also includes Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, John Turturro, Eddie Izzard, Joe Mantegna, Tony Shalhoub, Jason Isaacs, Pixar perennial John Ratzenberger, real-life couple Franco Nero and Vanessa Redgrave, and real-life racing champs Lewis Hamilton and Jeff Gordon. This is arguably the weakest Pixar picture to date, but it’s still spectacularly designed and entertaining. It’s not a classic, so what? Available as a single DVD ($29.99 retail), a DVD/Blu-ray combo ($39.99 retail), a 3-D Blu-ray/DVD combo ($49.99 retail), or an 11-disc three-movie combo ($119.99 retail). Rated G.

CHICAGO: LIVE IN CONCERT (Image Entertainment): The title tells all in this concert documentary ($14.98 retail) showcasing the popular rock group whose many hits include “25 or 6 to 4,” “Saturday in the Park,” “Feelin’ Stronger Every Day” and more.

CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE (Warner Home Video):

A cheerful, if somewhat glib, romantic comedy depicting the unexpected repercussions when the marriage of Steve Carell (also a producer) and Julianne Moore comes undone. The climactic plot twists are a bit contrived, but balanced by an appealing cast that also includes Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Marisa Tomei, Analeigh Tipton, Jonah Bobo and Kevin Bacon. Rated PG-13.

DON’T GO BREAKING MY HEART (Curb Entertainment/MVD Visual): A terminally cute, limp, London-set 1999 romantic comedy pairing Anthony Edwards (also an executive producer) and Jenny Seagrove, with an able supporting cast (Charles Dance, Jane Leeves and Tom Conti) along for the ride. The Elton John/Kiki Dee ‘70s hit is played over the opening credits.

“EASTBOUND & DOWN”: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON (HBO Home Entertainment): The UNCSA contingent (Danny McBride, David Gordon Green, Jody Hill and Ben Best) is back in action, in all seven episodes from the 2010 season of the popular HBO comedy series starring McBride as a burned-out, has-been ballplayer-turned-coach. The DVD retails for $29.98, the Blu-ray for $39.98. HBO is also releasing “The Complete First Season” on Blu-ray ($39.98 retail).

FADING OF THE CRIES (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Mysticism and mayhem reign supreme in this choppy, confused fantasy involving a magical amulet and an army of the walking dead, punctuated by flashbacks that clarify absolutely nothing. The cast includes Brad Dourif (in a fright wig), Hallee Hirsch, Elaine Hendrix, Thomas Ian Nicholas (also a producer) and newcomer Jordan Matthews. Rated R.

HARVEST (Monterey Media): The alwayswelcome Robert Loggia takes full advantage of a lead role in writer/producer/director Marc Meyers’ award-winning drama as an ailing patriarch trying to enjoy his last days in the company of his devoted but dysfunctional family. Leisurely paced but effective and wellacted by a solid ensemble cast including Barbara Barrie, Victoria Clark, Jack T. Carpenter, Arye Gross and Peter Friedman. This could have been an utter wallow in sentiment, and it’s to the filmmakers’ credit that it’s not. Rated R.

IMAGE BLU-RAYS (Image Entertainment): A selection of films originally released by Columbia/ TriStar, now available on Blu-ray ($17.97 retail each): Sydney Pollack’s 1981 Absence of Malice (rated PG) earned Oscar nominations for Best Actor (Paul Newman), Best Supporting Actress (Melinda Dillon) and Best Original Screenplay; Terence Stamp plays the title role in William Wyler’s 1965 adaptation of John Fowles’ The Collector, which earned Oscar nominations for Best Actress (Samantha Eggar), Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Director; Terry

Gilliam’s 1991 The Fisher King (rated R) earned Oscar nominations for Best Actor (Robin Williams), Best Original Screenplay, Best Score and Best Art Direction/Set Decoration, with a win for Mercedes Ruehl as Best Supporting Actress; and Nicole Kidman gives an award-winning performance in Gus Van Sant’s 1995 To Die For (rated R).

JUST WRITE (Curb Entertainment/MVD Visual):

Hollywood tour-bus driver Jeremy Piven tries to woo starlet Sherilyn Fenn by convincing her that he’s a screenwriter, in this mildly entertaining but overlong 1997 romantic comedy featuring JoBeth Williams, Costas Mandylor, Wallace Shawn, Alex Rocco, Yeardley Smith, Holland Taylor, Nancy McKeon, Ed McMahon and Jay Leno (as himself, of course). Rated PG-13.

“LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE”: THE COMPLETE NINE-SEASON SET (LionsGate Home Entertainment): A mammoth 55-DVD boxed set ($149.99 retail) containing all 203 episodes from the entire 1974-’83 run of the award-winning prime-time NBC drama series based on the classic stories by Laura Ingalls Wilder (played here by Melissa Gilbert). Michael Landon, also the executive producer, starred for eight seasons, directed 90 episodes and wrote almost 50.

NATIONAL LAMPOON’S DIRTY MOVIE (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Christopher Meloni, seemingly channeling Jim Carrey, plays an irreverent filmmaker bent on making the most offensive movie ever made in this hitor-miss farce. Some of the jokes are hilarious, others are groaners. Robert Klein is funny as a Hollywood producer whose credits include Not Another Holocaust Movie and the cast also includes Mario Cantone, Adam Ferrara, Diane Neal and guest appearances by Cyndi Lauper, Valerie Mahaffey and former heavyweight boxing champ Larry Holmes. Rated R.

“RUNNING WILDE”: SEASON ONE (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Will Arnett (series cocreator/executive producer/writer) and Keri Russell star in all 13 episodes from the 2011 (and only) season of the Fox Network situation comedy about a wealthy wastrel’s attempts to woo his childhood love, now a die-hard environmentalist. The DVD boxed set retails for $29.98.

TRIGGERMAN (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Terence Hill (who also codirected) headlines this light-hearted Western, a throwback to Hill’s Trinity films of the early ’70s, in which good and bad guys alike compete in a high-stakes poker tournament in the Old West. This is a follow-up to Doc West (so named for Hill’s character), and both were originally broadcast in Italy as a miniseries with Hill, Paul Sorvino, Ornella Muti, Clare Carey and Micah Alberti appearing in both. Rated PG.

“TYLER PERRY’S MEET THE BROWNS”:

SEASON TWO (LionsGate Home Entertainment): David Mann and real-life wife Tamela Mann return as Leroy and Cora, in 20 episodes from the 2009 season of the awardwinning, syndicated sitcom spun off from Perry’s 2008 film of the same name, in turn based on one of his plays. Lamman Rucker, Denise Boutte and Juanita Jennings round out the regular cast. This three-DVD boxed set retails for $29.98.

WITCHVILLE (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Clanking swords and clunky dialogue aplenty in this silly medieval muddle in which a heroic prince (Luke Goss) wages war against witches led by Sarah Douglas. Lots of CGI effects, most of them bad.

“ZEN: VENDETTA, CABAL, RATKING” (BBC Worldwide): Rufus Sewell plays Italian detective Auriello Zen in this critically-acclaimed adaptation of the best-selling mystery novels by the late Michael Dibdin, which premiered in the US on PBS’ “Masterpiece Mystery!” series. Caterina Murino and Callum Blue also star. The DVD boxed set retails for $34.98, the Blu-ray boxed set for $39.98.

Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2011, Mark Burger

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