Video Vault – Dec 6, 2017
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
PICK OF THE WEEK
MISERY (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Stephen King’s best-selling 1987 novel was expertly brought to the screen three years later by screenwriter William Goldman and director Rob Reiner, yielding a first-rate King potboiler – in the best sense of the term.
One snowy day, Paul Sheldon (James Caan), best-selling author of the “Misery Chastain” series of romance novels, is critically injured in a car crash in Colorado, only to be rescued by Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates), a reclusive nurse who claims to be his “number one fan.” Sheldon is understandably grateful to Annie, but comes to realize that she’s a dangerous psychotic when she destroys his latest manuscript (in which Misery is killed off), and forces him – in particularly vivid terms – to write a novel more to her liking. Thus begins an increasingly intense battle of wills, played to the hilt – and beyond.
Although Bates won the Best Actress Oscar, Caan is equally impressive – particularly since he’s immobilized much of the time. Goldman expands the novel’s parameters by incorporating some new characters, including Richard Farnsworth as a folksy sheriff and Frances Sternhagen as his wife, Lauren Bacall as Paul’s agent, and an unbilled J.T. Walsh as a state trooper.
The collector’s-edition Blu-ray ($34.93 retail) includes audio commentaries, retrospective interviews and featurettes, trailers, and more. Rated R. ***½
“THE BEST OF AGATHA CHRISTIE” (Acorn): A pair of self-explanatory, two-DVD collections (each $39.99 retail), boasting TV films based on classic tales by the Queen of Crime: “Volume 1” includes the 2015 mini-series Murder on the Orient Express (with Charles Dance, Sam Neill and Miranda Richardson) and two “Hercule Poirot” episodes starring David Suchet as the Belgian sleuth, Five Little Pigs (2003) and Death on the Nile (2004); “Volume 2” includes Witness for the Prosecution (2017) starring Toby Jones and Kim Cattrall, plus Suchet’s Poirot in Three Act Tragedy (2010) and Halowe’en Party (2011).
“BOB HOPE ULTIMATE MOVIE COLLECTION” (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment): A self-explanatory 10-DVD selection ($59.98 retail) celebrating the legacy of legendary comedian Bob Hope (1903-2003), boasting 21 feature films (including such favorites as The Big Broadcast of 1938, The Cat and the Canary, The Ghost Breakers, Road to Morocco, Louisiana Purchase, Road to Zanzibar and The Paleface), featurettes, and the all-new PBS documentary “American Masters: This is Bob Hope.”
“CMA AWARDS LIVE: GREATEST MOMENTS 1968-2015” (Time Life): The title tells all in this 10-DVD selection ($119.96 retail) of highlights from the Country Music Association Awards, featuring a star-studded line-up including Loretta Lynn, Kenny Rogers, Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, Glen Campbell, Barbara Mandrell, Taylor Swift, Keith Urban, Brad Paisley, Merle Haggard, Miranda Lambert, Brooks & Dunn, Reba McEntire and many more – plus bonus interviews and a 44-page memory book.
CROWN HEIGHTS (Broad Green Pictures): Lakeith Stanfield stars in writer/producer/director Matt Ruskin’s award-winning, fact-based legal drama as Colin Warner, a teenager unjustly accused of – and imprisoned for – a murder he didn’t commit, prompting his best friend (Nnamdi Asomugha, former pro footballer and also one of the film’s producers) to embark on a tireless quest to exonerate him. Earnest, well-intentioned and unquestionably relevant, but also episodic and preachy – with a narrative format seemingly inspired more by TV’s Law & Order, available on DVD ($29.99 retail). Rated R. **
THE CRUCIFIXION (LionsGate): Director Xavier Gens’ R-rated shocker, billed as being inspired by true events, sees reporter Sophie Cookson encountering supernatural phenomena when investigating an exorcism gone wrong, available on DVD ($19.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($21.98 retail).
“D.C. FOLLIES”: THE COMPLETE SERIES (Shout! Factory): Affable bartender Fred Willard is joined by the Krofft puppets in all 44 episodes from the entire 1987-’89 run of the syndicated, Emmy-nominated comedy series (based on the British comedy series “Spitting Image”) that poked fun at politics and pop culture, with (non-puppet) guest stars Martin Mull, Leslie Nielsen, Bob Uecker, Mike Tyson, Betty White, “Weird Al” Yankovic, Whoopi Goldberg and others – available on DVD ($34.99 retail).
DIGIMON ADVENTURE TRI. – CONFESSION (Toei Animation/Shout! Factory): The heroic “DigiDestined” team reunite to save the world (again) in the latest installment (originally titled Digimon Adventure tri. Saikai) of the popular anime franchise, available on DVD ($14.98 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($24.97 retail) – boasting both the original Japanese-language soundtrack and the English-language soundtrack, plus bonus features for Digimon devotees.
“GILMORE GIRLS: A YEAR IN THE LIFE” (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel reprise their mother/daughter roles in this four-part Netflix mini-series that picks up 10 years after the end of the award-winning WB/CW drama series, with series regulars Kelly Bishop, Scott Patterson, Milo Ventimiglia, Liza Weil, Jared Padalecki, Yanic Truesdale, Keiko Agena, Sean Gunn and Melissa McCarthy also encoring, available on DVD ($24.98 retail)
HIGH SCHOOL LOVER (LionsGate): Executive producer James Franco plays a cinematographer concerned when teen-aged daughter Paulina Singer begins dating Hollywood heartthrob Francois Arnaud, who becomes increasingly – and dangerously – obsessed with her. Not as campy as one might expect from a Lifetime TV movie, and this clearly apes elements of Fifty Shades of Grey (Arnaud’s character is even named “Christian”), but acted with conviction. The DVD retails for $14.98. **
HOLIDAY INN (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment): A 75th-anniversary special-edition Blu-ray ($11.99 retail) of the much-beloved 1942 Irving Berlin musical starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, best remembered for introducing the Oscar-winning song White Christmas and earned additional nominations for Best Original Story and Best Score. Special features include audio commentary, retrospective interviews, and the full-length stage production Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn: The Broadway Musical. ***
“HUMANS 2.0” (Acorn): Based on the award-winning Swedish sci-fi series, this Channel 4/AMC series dramatizes life in a parallel universe, where cyborg servants have been developed to assist humankind – but not without a few kinks along the way – in all eight episodes from the 2017 season, with Carrie-Ann Moss joining the regular cast: Gemma Chan, Katherine Parkinson, Tom Goodman-Hill, Colin Morgan, Will Tudor, Pixie Davis, Emily Berrington and Ivanno Jeremiah — available on DVD and Blu-ray (each $39.99 retail), both replete with bonus features.
INNSAEI (Zeitgeist Films/Kino Lorber): Kristin Olafsdottir and writer/narrator Hrund Gunnsteinsdottir co-directed this feature documentary exploring how to cope with contemporary distractions and stress, which only seem to accumulate exponentially on an almost daily basis, available on DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($34.95 retail).
JABBERWOCKY (The Criterion Collection): Medieval mayhem reigns supreme in Terry Gilliam’s 1977 solo directorial debut, starring Gilliam’s Monty Python mate Michael Palin as an irrepressible bumbler on the trail of a rampaging monster, loosely inspired by Lewis Carroll’s nonsensical poem. A cult favorite but not a Monty Python movie, as it was frequently (but incorrectly) promoted. Both the DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) boast audio commentary, retrospective documentary, and more. Rated PG. ***
MARRIED BY CHRISTMAS (Monarch Home Entertainment): This sugary screwball comedy (originally titled The Engagement Clause) stars Jes Macallan (channeling Jennifer Aniston) as a high-powered executive who must land a husband lest her younger, engaged sister (April Bowlby) take over the family business. **
“MIDSOMER MURDERS: JOHN BARNABY’S FIRST CASES” (Acorn): A self-explanatory seven-DVD collection ($79.99 retail) of 14 feature-length episodes from the long-running, award-winning ITV mystery series (aired by A&E in the United States), created by Caroline Graham and starring Neil Dudgeon in the title role of Midsomer County’s detective chief inspector, with guest appearances by Edward Fox, Samantha Bond, Warren Clarke, Sinead Cusack, Kevin Doyle, James Callis, Pam Ferris, Hattie Morahan – plus bonus features.
OF HORSES AND MEN (Music Box Films Home Entertainment): Writer/director Benedikt Erlingsson’s award-winning debut feature (originally titled Hross i oss) drifts through the lives of those who reside in a valley in rural Iceland and how their shared love of horses unites them. In Icelandic, Russian, Spanish and Swedish with English subtitles, available on DVD ($19.95 retail).
THE OSIRIS CHILD: SCIENCE FICTION VOLUME ONE (RLJ Entertainment): Writer/producer/director Shane Abbess’ sci-fi blow-out pairs escaped prisoner Kellan Lutz with rogue soldier Daniel MacPherson as they try to rescue the latter’s daughter (Teagan Croft) from a planetary apocalypse, available on DVD ($29.96 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($34.97 retail) – each replete with special features including featurettes, deleted scenes, music videos and more.
RIFT (Breaking Glass Pictures): Writer/producer/director Erlingur Ottar Thoroddsen’s award-winning thriller (originally titled Rokkur) stars Bjorn Stefansson and Sigurdur Thor Oskarsson as former lovers whose tense reunion in a secluded cabin becomes even more so when strange happenings commence. In Icelandic with English subtitles, available on DVD ($19.99 retail).
“ROMEU & ROMEU: PART 1” (Dekkoo Films/TLA Releasing): A DVD collection ($24.99 retail) of all five episodes from the inaugural 2016 season of the Portuguese drama series that puts a gay spin on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet by having the sons of rival families (played by newcomer Joao Mesquita and screenwriter/series creator Arthur Chermont) whose illicit romance threatens to destroy both clans – as well as themselves.
SAVING CHRISTMAS (LionsGate): A holiday comedy starring newcomer Jack Brunault as a boy determined to prove the existence of Santa Claus – with a little help from pro wrestlers Tommy Dreamer, Mike Bennett and Maria Kanellis. Nicely-performed but flimsy, although top-billed Ed Asner looks right at home in a Santa Claus suit. Rated PG. *½
“TELETUBBIES” (DHX Media/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Just in time for the holidays, a pair of DVD collections (each $14.99 retail), each boasting six new episodes from the popular children’s series aired on Nick Jr.: Let’s Sing & Dance also includes the collectible “Laa-Laa” plush toy and Silly Fun the “Po” plush toy.
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2017, Mark Burger)