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May 1, 2013

Video TapeWorm

New, encore and low-price releases on Tuesday, May 7

THIS WEEK’S TWIN PEEKS:

FRINGE: THE COMPLETE FIFTH SEASON

2013; $27.98-$49.98; UR

We’ve spent the last few months re-watching the entire “Fringe” series — J.J. Abrams’ five-season “X Files”-ish sci-fi amalgam of time travel, alternate universes, destiny, heroes, synthetic villains and scientific wiz-bangery — from start to end. And taken as a whole, it is a remarkable achievement — far more compelling and inspired than intermittent weekly broadcasts can convey. This release is the fifth and final season, where all the series’ many threads come together in a brilliant conclusion with a solid emotional payoff — something very rare in American series TV. Our highest recommendation. Also available: The entire series in a boxed set for $140-$200. And, yes, it is worth it.

MAMA

2013; $19.98-$34.98; PG-13

Nobody does high-art supernatural spookers better than Guillermo del Toro, and this is a perfect example. A pair of young girls vanishes the night their parents are killed. Five years later they are found — alive, filthy, but physically OK. But when their uncle and his squeeze (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Jessica Chastain) take them in, “something” seems to have moved in with them. In lesser hands this would have been a forgettable bargain-bin toss-off, but del Toro makes the most of the limitations of its PG-13 rating to produce inventive and believable shocks. Very nicely done.

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BROADWAY MUSICALS: A JEWISH LEGACY

2012; $27.98-$39.98; UR

When we first heard of this title, we thought it was a joke; an ironic poke at the saturation of Jews in the entertainment industry. But, no, it’s a straight-up PBS doc packed with superb performances by the likes of Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane, Barbra Streisand, Kristin Chenoweth and the immortal Zero Mostel. Beyond just great performances, we also get a background on the legion of unsung composers, writers and others whose religion has helped them entertain and enlighten generations of people, regardless of their beliefs. A lifetime of great entertainment packed into one perfect disc.

FEMALE TEACHER HUNTING

1982; $19.98; UR

One of the last sexploiters from Japan’s legendary sleaze mongers, Nikkatsu Studios, this begins with a pair of high-schoolers playfully skinny dipping under a starry moonlit sky. It’s really quite beautiful. But when the boy is accused of raping the girl and then attacking a teacher, his life spirals out of control. He runs away, only to be taken advantage of by older women, eventually finding himself in the same small resort as the teacher he is accused of attacking. Surprisingly complex and provocative for a skeezy stroke-fest, huh? A mature entry by the masters of the craft.

JACK REACHER

2012; $19.98; PG-13

Before this Tom Cruise actioner had even hit the streets, critics lined up to denounce it as his “jump the shark” moment. We thought that happened bouncing on Oprah’s couch, but as far as this movie is concerned, it’s pure Cruise all the way. He’s a fabled operative, trying to understand what caused a trained military sniper (Joseph Sikora) to go on a shooting rampage. Were his targets really random, or is there something more sinister going on? Well, with snowy Rosamund Pike in the mix, we certainly hope so! Lots of action, ridiculous plot holes, improbable casting, cool cameos and shirtless Cruise in full-on indestructi-mode. What more could you want?

K-9: THE COMPLETE SERIES

2009; $21.98-$29.98; UR

It seems that “Doctor Who” TV spinoffs have never really caught on with viewers. While the uneven “Torchwood” did OK, “The Sara Jane Adventures” died too quickly, and a number of pilots have expired before even making it to our shores. As far as we know, this animated series, starring The Doctor’s loyal 50th-century robot dog, has never been seen in America. Aimed at youngsters, the K-9 we knew and loved quickly departs from Who-lore by exploding, then reassembling itself into a flying superhero on a quest to discover its past (having lost its memory in the process), with the help of two young friends. Aimed at kids, but we liked it, too.

SAFE HAVEN

2013; $26.98; PG-13

More Kleenex fodder from the limp pen of Nicholas Sparks (“The Notebook”). Sexy-as-hell Julianne Hough wanders into a friendly small town, keeping everyone at arm’s length. She eventually warms up to Josh Duhamel, who gets bitten by intergalactic mutant fungi-rats, becoming part of their zombie army. OK, we made that last part up. Chick flick.

THE ASSASSIN’S BLADE

2008; $9.98-$29.98; UR

Better known as “Mo hup leung juk,” this martial-arts love story stars the ethereal actress/singer Charlene Choi as the daughter of a wealthy man, sent in secret to an isolated school to learn advanced fighting skills. There she falls in love with her strict instructor (Chun Wu), which is forbidden. When an emergency calls her home, the two are forced to face their desires and their destinies. A little known but nicely balanced tale of love and honor.

THE ORANGES

2011; $14.98-$29.98; R

Fifty-something Hugh Laurie uses up some of his star capital in this funny-icky tale of a man, married to Catherine Keener, who has an affair with blazing 20-something hottie Leighton Meester (“Gossip Girl”), the daughter of neighbors Oliver Platt and Allison Janney. Eww. It all comes to a head (wink wink, nudge nudge) at Thanksgiving as her parents push her toward Laurie’s son, Adam Brody. Ew! Ew! Ewww! A finely controlled R-rated romantic comedy meltdown.

THE RABBI’S CAT

2011; $26.98-$34.98; UR

Wow! This French cartoon is almost an out-of-body experience! In 1920s Algeria, a rabbi’s cat swallows the family parrot, giving him the power to speak. And what does he say? That he wants to be Jewish! Meanwhile, the man’s ravishing daughter discovers a Russian box with a live painter inside. He wants to go to Africa, leading them all on a grand fantasy adventure. An amazing, off-the-wall and thoroughly original tale that you just gotta see!

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