December 27, 2013

Video TapeWorm

New, encore and low-price releases on Tuesday, Jan. 7

THIS WEEK’S TWIN PEEKS:

BIRTH OF THE LIVING DEAD

2013; $22.98; UR

A long, long overdue documentary on George Romero and his wildly influential masterwork, 1968’s “Night of the Living Dead.” Whether you’re a fan of the man or not, whether you like/love/hate zombie movies/TV/games/etc., we guarantee you will enjoy watching George as a young college dropout, gathering a motley crew of Pittsburgh filmmaker-wannabes to accidentally launch the multi-billion-dollar zombie craze that’s still going strong 35 years later. Funny, touching, scary, enlightened, profound, silly and just plain entertaining as hell, this is officially our favorite doc of all time. Just buy the freakin’ thing ... or go to videotapeworm.com/video.php and register to win one of five free copies courtesy of First Run Features, LEO and the Video TapeWorm. You’re welcome.

MIDSOMER MURDERS: THE EARLY CASES COLLECTION

2001; $109.98; UR

We’re always crowing about this terrific, long-running cop-murder-mystery show from Britain, and now the BBC is indulging our video fantasies by re-releasing a 10-disc set from the first four seasons. From the very first case, “The Killings at Badger’s Drift,” Detective Tom Barnaby (John Nettles) and Sgt. Troy (Daniel Casey) are awash in bloody mayhem and eccentric characters while trying to preserve the peace in bucolic Midsomer County — genteel murder capital of Great Britain. Charming, grisly, reserved, action-packed, funny, clever and delightful. Grab this quick before it goes out of print again.

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BADGES OF FURY

2013; $20.98-$29.98; UR

Jet Li continues to make some of the world’s best martial-arts/action/crime dramas. Here he partners with Collin Chou (“The Matrix Reloaded”) and ravishing Cecilia Liu (“Kill Zone”) in a tale of two mismatched cops — they truly hate each other — trying to solve a series of murders. And it seems all the victims were formerly Liu’s lovers. Hmm, sounds like it’s time for a little undercover work, if you get our drift. Fun stuff.

BARNEY MILLER: SEASON FOUR

2013; $22.98-$24.98; UR

For our money, “Barney Miller” (1974-82) was the best TV show ever made. A well-paced, brilliantly written ensemble sitcom of sorts, set in a rundown NYC police station — and no one in the cast was under the age of 32! But each of the characters was a flawed gem; from the titular captain (Hal Linden), to the would-be writer (Ron Glass), to the tired old man (Abe Vigoda), to the young cop with the unpronounceable name (Max Gail), these were people you could relate to. Our favorite episode this season was “The Ghost,” about a haunted suspect whose poltergeist wreaks otherworldly havoc in the squad room. Our highest recommendation.

BIG ASS SPIDER!

2013; $13.98-$19.98; PG-13

With a name like that, you just know this is gonna be a hoot! Lin Shaye stars with Clare Kramer (Glory from “Buffy”) and Ray Wise (always a sign of quality) in this obvious and stupid throwback to cheap ’70s monster-horrors. When a giant alien spider busts out of a lab and goes noshing in L.A., the military succeeds in destroying everything in their path EXCEPT the monster, while Lloyd Kaufman jogs by in a cameo. Excellent special effects — including some nice thong-bikini butts — make this a keeper. Enjoy.

COPPER: SEASON 2

2013; $22.98-$59.98; UR

We are hopelessly hooked on this BBC series set in NYC at the end of the Civil War. There, in the “Five Corners” region, immigrants from around the world huddle together to eke out an existence amid filth, disease, intolerance, brutality and crime. Meanwhile, just blocks away, the super-rich live lives of decadence and privilege. And it’s the job of Detective Kevin “Corky” Corcoran (Tom Weston-Jones), an Irish immigrant, to keep them from tearing each other apart. Death lies heavy in the air this season amid suicides, assassinations, foul water and the murderous political dealings of Boss Donovan (Donal Logue). An addictive visit to a fragile period in American history. Highly recommended.

I’M SO EXCITED!

2013; $35.99-$42.99; R

Director Pedro Almodóvar has crafted another odd gem, this time a “Carry On”-style ensemble gay comedy set aboard a doomed airliner. Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz — both in cameo — lead a cast filled with Almodóvar regulars, many of whom spend the bulk of the film drugged and slumped across sardine-packed Economy Class seats. Imagine a proudly homo version of “Airplane” with lots of sex, drugs and death, plus a full musical number. Not Almodóvar’s best film by any means, but a screwy experiment by one of the greats.

LINSANITY

2013; $18.98-$20.98; PG

We’re not big b-ball rooters, but even we were impressed at how the New York Knicks turned unproven (and some said scrawny and unpromising) rookie Jeremy Lin loose on the court, resulting in a scoring streak that set records and launched a media frenzy around the Harvard grad. This carnival, dubbed “Linsanity,” was short-lived but intense, largely because so little was known about the man and so much of what was known seemed contradictory. This, then, is Lin’s humble story, including the prejudice and racism he faces as an Asian-American in the world’s tallest sport.

RUNNER RUNNER

2013; $35.98; R

Justin Timberlake and Ben Affleck star in a crime thriller that’s better than you’ve heard. Affleck is a wealthy and seemingly likeable online gambling tycoon. Timberlake is the Princeton grad who believes he’s been cheated by Affleck — and travels to Costa Rica to confront the man, and maybe even join his operation. But the FBI wants T-Lake to help them bring down Affleck, who is revealed as a slimy, murderous snake. Yes, there is a lot of big-star grandstanding, leaving costar Gemma Arterton — apparently the only woman on the island — standing around with nothing much to do. Fun, if forgettable.

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

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