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MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL

October 31, 2012

Video TapeWorm

New, encore and low-price releases on Tuesday, Nov. 6

THIS WEEK’S TWIN PEEKS:

SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS: IT’S A SPONGEBOB CHRISTMAS!

2012; $9.98-$14.98; UR

OK, we’ll admit it: We’re big fans of Spongebob, but what’s really cool about this Christmas special is that the whole thing is done in stop-motion animation! That makes us very happy, unlike Plankton (who always gets coal in his stocking), who will be predictably glum sitting alone in The Chum Bucket — unless his latest scheme to wrangle the secret formula for Krabby Patties proves successful! It’s just the usual mind-warping, bottom-of-the-sea silliness that you’ve come to love, but with a much cooler look. Or, as Patrick says, “It’s gonna rock!”

THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL

1992; $18.98-$26.98; G

At last count, we have 25 versions of Charles Dickens’ tale of Ebenezer Scrooge clogging our video wall. But this one is our favorite: An early work by Brian Henson not long after his father, Jim, had passed away, starring Michael Caine as that covetous old miser, and Kermit The Frog as Bob Cratchit — with Miss Piggy as his wife! The Great Gonzo keeps it lively and spry as our narrator — Mr. Dickens, himself! — with help from Rizzo the Rat. Great music by Paul Williams and some of the best sets the Muppet Workshop has ever produced make this a must-own, now in a 20th Anniversary Blu-ray edition. Enjoy.

•••

ELEVEN SAMURAI

1966; $19.98-$24.98; UR

This little-known tale of the Oshi Clan, accused of murder by a cowardly Shogun’s son, is as solid and satisfying as any Samurai flick you’ll ever see. But it became something of a cause celebre recently when some unknown smart-ass filled its IMDB page with misinformation. Specifically, they charge that it is a “version of” 1978’s infamous “Message From Space,” a “Star Wars”-ish ripoff of Akira Kurosawa’s masterpiece, “Seven Samurai.” Worth a look, whatever its providence.

EVEN THE RAIN

2010; $24.98-$27.98; UR

Set amid the 2000 “Water Wars” in Bolivia — when multi-national corporations began taking possession of the nation’s water supply — a pair of filmmakers attempt to make a film about the decimation of South America at the hands of Christopher Columbus. High concept? Kinda, but the point is to show how indigenous people (uh, like all of us) are now and have always been fodder for unchecked corporate greed. Stars Gael Garcia Bernal from “The Motorcycle Diaries.”

HOLLYWOOD TO DOLLYWOOD

2012; $19.98-$21.98; UR

This goofy, loving ode to all things Southern, American and Dolly Parton is gangs of fun. It’s a doc about two gay brothers who write a screenplay just for Dolly, then set off on a cross-country RV trek to deliver it to her, meeting all manner of men and women, bigotry and tolerance, tornadoes and floods along the way; all to a classic Dolly soundtrack. We guarantee you will like this.

MAXIMUM CONVICTION

2012; $16.98-$34.98; R

The first-ever pairing of grunt-meisters Steven Seagal and Steve Austin finds them decommissioning an old prison — and responsible for a pair of comely and mysterious female prisoners. Why? Well, wouldn’t be much of story without them now, would it? And, of course, there’s a platoon of elite mercenaries heading their way, gunning for the pair. Aaannd ACTION!

RASHOMON

1950; $24.98-$39.98; UR

Writer/director Akira Kurosawa’s legendary tale of a horrific crime, told from four viewpoints, is still being studied, analyzed — and copied — over a half-century later. Toshirô Mifune delivers the performance of a lifetime as the bandit whose base urges and rash acts of brutality sets the tale in motion, but the real star is truth — which is always on display but never really exists in our world. One of the greatest films ever made, now available in a Criterion Blu-ray release. A must-own.

REC 3: GENESIS

2012; $17.98-$22.98; R

The first two “REC” films (remade by American filmmakers as the “Quarantine” franchise) helped launch the international “found footage” genre, with tales of people being consumed and infected, trapped by a dark nameless “something” in an old apartment building, leaving only their vidcams to tell the tale. And both are damn good. This third entry moves beyond dark interiors to corrupt a couple’s wedding, juxtaposing the brilliant daylight and bridal white with zombie gore. Nicely over-the-top in spots; worth a look.

SUNSET BOULEVARD

1950; $18.98-$26.98; UR

It’s surprising how many people today have never seen this, the definitive classic Hollywood movie. Film legend Gloria Swanson gives her greatest performance as former silent film star Norma Desmond for writer/director Billy Wilder. She hires washed-up screenwriter William Holden to draft her a smash comeback flick, but it’s obvious from the first frame that this all going to end in disaster — you can see it in the eyes of Erich von Stroheim, Desmond’s butler, former husband and director. A PhD course in how to create the perfect film, now available on Blu-ray.

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN

2012; $17.98-$95.98; PG-13

Created more as a means to hang on to an expiring copyright than to satisfy the public’s hunger for Spidey, this was unnecessary, if very entertaining. Andrew Garfield is a geekier Peter Parker than previous incarnations, with Emma Stone as his would-be girlfriend Gwen, and a surprisingly good Denis Leary as her cop father. His greatest nemesis, The Lizard, finally arrives, though Rhys Ifans would not have been our first choice. Yes, this is a far more comic-booky tale than those told by Sam Raimi, but we’re not complaining. We’ll keep watching “Spider-Man” as long as someone wants to make them. The sequel is due in 2014.

VERA: SET 2

2011; $49.98-$59.98; UR

To our knowledge this BBC detective series has never been widely seen in the United States, and that’s a crime that needs investigating. Veteran thesp Brenda Blethyn plays Vera Stanhope, an obsessive 60-something chief inspector with more than her share of inner demons. Her only real friend is a put-upon underling, Sgt. Joe Ashworth (David Leon), whom Vera treats like a son in need of direction. Her acid tongue and talent for analysis reminds us more than a bit of Hugh Laurie’s Dr. Gregory House. May be hard to find, but definitely worth the effort.

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