DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: ON THE WATERFRONT (The Criterion Collection)
Elia Kazan’s timeless 1954 saga of one man battling the system gets the superb Criterion Collection treatment in this special edition.Marlon Brando gives a towering performance as Terry Malloy, a longshoreman and sometime-boxer (yes, he could’ve been a contender) who finds himself embroiled in corruption on the Hoboken waterfront — corruption that leads directly to his brother Charley (Rod Steiger) and local crime boss Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb), who rules the waterfront.It’s through the intervention of noble neighborhood priest Father Barry (Karl Malden) and the love of young Edie Doyle (Eva Marie Saint in her screen debut) that Terry’s conscience and dignity are revived, although at great personal risk.This is one of those films where everything works perfectly:Kazan’s tough but sensitive direction, Budd Schulberg’s timely and hard-hitting screenplay, Leonard Bernstein’s evocative score, terrific location filmmaking and a peerless cast. (Look also for Leif Erickson, Martin Balsam, Fred Gwynne and Pat Hingle in small roles.)The film earned 12 Academy Award nominations and won eight Oscars: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Brando), Best Supporting Actress (Saint), Best Story and Screenplay, Best Cinematography (black and white), Best Art Direction/Set Decoration (black and white) and Best Editing, with Bernstein nominated for his score and Malden, Cobb and Steiger all vying for Best Supporting Actor — and probably canceling each other out.The special-edition DVD retails for $39.95, the special-edition Blu-ray for $49.95.
ALL SCREWED UP (Indican Pictures): Agreeable if familiar “body-switch” comedy involving high-school jock Jake Waldman and science nerd Chyna Layne. A speedier pace wouldn’t have hurt, but painless teen fare. Allison Carter Thomas is a looker as Waldman’s bitchy girlfriend.
ARGO (Warner Home Video): Director Ben Affleck’s first-rate dramatization of the efforts of CIA agent Tony Mendez (Affleck) to surreptitiously assist six US Embassy employees escape from Tehran during the Iranian Hostage Crisis by pretending to scout locations for a science-fiction epic. One of 2012’s very best films, with a terrific script (by Chris Terrio) and a superior cast including Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Victor Garber, Clea DuVall, Tate Donovan, Rory Cochrane, Kyle Chandler, Chris Messina, Zeljko Ivanek, Titus Welliver, Bob Gunton, Kerry Bishe and an uncredited Philip Baker Hall. Affleck also produced with Grant Heslov and George Clooney. Seven Academy Award nominations: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Arkin), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Editing, Best Original Score, Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing. Rated R.
BILL MOYERS: BECOMING AMERICAN (Athena): Subtitled “The Chinese Experience,” this two-DVD collection ($49.99 retail) explores in detail the history of Chinese Americans. Narrated by award-winning newsman Bill Moyers and originally broadcast in 2003.
CRIME STORY/THE PROTECTOR DOUBLE FEATURE (Shout! Factory): A pair of Jackie Chan’s most popular feature films, together for the first time: 1993’s awardwinning Crime Story (AKA Zhong An Zu) and 1985’s The Protector, co-starring Danny Aiello and directed by James Glickenhaus. The DVD retails for $12.99, the Blu-ray for $19.93. Both films are rated R.
THE FACTORY (Warner Home Video): John Cusack and Jennifer Carpenter play Buffalo cops on the trail of serial killer Dallas Roberts — a task that becomes even more personal when Cusack’s teenaged daughter (Mae Whitman) falls into his clutches. This dour, brooding shocker — “inspired by actual events,” according to the credits — was filmed in 2008 and then resided on the studio shelf… until now. Cusack does what he can, but the film’s “big” twist is anything but. Rated R.
FRANKENWEENIE (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): Tim Burton expands his 1984 short with this eye-catching animated feature about a bright young boy (voiced by Charlie Tahan) who brings his beloved dog back to life and causes a neighborhood uproar. Offbeat and quirky — just what you’d expect from Burton — with plenty of in-jokes and an enthusiastic voiceover cast that includes Martin Short, Catherine O’Hara, Martin Landau, Winona Ryder and Atticus Shaffer. Oscar nominee for Best Animated Feature. Available as a single DVD ($29.99 retail), a DVD/Blu-ray combo ($39.99 retail), or a four-disc combo ($49.99 retail). Rated PG.
“GAME OF THRONES”: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON (HBO Home Entertainment): The struggle to rule the mythical kingdom of Westeros continues in all 10 episodes from the 2012 season of the HBO series based on executive producer George RR Martin’s best-selling A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy novels. The cast includes Lena Headey, Sean Bean, Mark Addy, Aiden Gillen, Iain Glen and Peter Dinklage. Nominated for 11 Emmy Awards including Outstanding Drama Series and Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (Dinklage), with six wins (sound mixing, sound editing, visual effects, makeup, art direction/set decoration and costumes). The DVD boxed set retails for $59.99, the Blu-ray boxed set for $79.98.
THE ORIGINS OF OZ (Smithsonian Channel/Inception Media Group): A documentary ($14.98) that explores the creation of author L. Frank Baum’s immortal classic The Wizard of Oz.
THE PACKAGE (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Director Jesse V. Johnson brings his stylish sheen to this rowdy shoot-’em-up with Steve Austin as a “stone cold” Seattle tough assigned to deliver the title item to Dolph Lundgren as “the German.” Silly stuff, but there’s no shortage of action. Rated R.
THE PETE WALKER COLLECTION (Redemption/Kino Lorber): A Blu-ray collection ($89.95 retail) of four shockers from famous (and infamous) British exploitation filmmaker Pete Walker: House of Whipcord (1974), Schizo (1976), Die Screaming Marianne (1971) and The Comeback (1978). Each film boasts special features and each film (surprise, surprise) is rated R.
SUPERNATURAL ACTIVITY (Well Go USA Entertainment): Inevitable spoof of the Paranormal Activity franchise is a found-footage farce in which reality-TV ghost hunters encounter an actual entity. After a weak first half, the second half picks up considerably. An enthusiastic cast includes Joey Oglesby, Donny Boaz, Conley Wehner, Liddy Bisanz (as “Blair Woods”), first-time director Derek Lee Nixon (playing, aptly enough, a director) and Andrew Pozza, who also scripted under the pseudonym “M. Art Twain.”
THIS BINARY UNIVERSE (Indican Pictures): A self-indulgent but not uninteresting cinematic head trip, with images and sounds formed into vignettes as written, mixed, performed, recorded and directed by “BT” (nee Brian Transeau).
TO CATCH A DOLLAR: MUHAMMAD YUNUS BANKS ON AMERICA (Shout! Factory): Gayle Ferraro’s documentary ($19.93) explores the Nobel Prize-winning economist’s “Grameen America” system of banking.
UNDERSEA EDENS COLLECTION (Smithsonian Channel/Inception Media Group): A DVD selection ($24.98 retail) of six documentaries about the world beneath the waves, originally broadcast on the Smithsonian Channel: Rainforest to Reef, Desert to Reef, Coral Kingdoms, The Frozen Isle, The Majestic South and Predator’s Paradise.
WOMAN HATER (VCI Entertainment): It’s battle-of-the-sexes time for English lord Stewart Granger and French actress Edwige Feuillere in this 1948 comedy, an early effort from director Terence Young. Character actor Miles Malleson always seemed to play bumbling vicars, and does so again here. Granger and Feuillere do what they can with flimsy material.
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2013, Mark Burger.