DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: THINGS TO COME (The Criterion Collection)
HG Wells ponders mankind’s future in this 1936 science-fiction classic directed by noted production designer William Cameron Menzies.It’s a fascinating, not entirely inaccurate cinematic prophecy, encompassing a devastating world war, the subsequent rebuilding of society and, ultimately, space travel.Although occasionally preachy, this is very much a thinking man’s science-fiction film, one that embraces ideas — and ideals — in its speculative depiction of what the future holds. Wells evinces more faith in science as the path to progress than in human nature which, he suggests, is often prone to avarice, corruption, fear and violence. (It’s hard to argue that observation.)The special effects and production design are still impressive, yet don’t overwhelm the story. A fine cast includes Raymond Massey, Cedric Hardwicke, Margaretta Scott, Edward Chapman and Ralph Richardson. This remains a landmark in its genre.The special-edition DVD retails for $29.95, the special-edition Blu-ray for $39.95.
“BECK” (MHz Networks): Peter Haber stars as the methodical, middle-aged cop Martin Beck in this small-screen adaptation of the best-selling crime novels by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo. The DVD release of “Volume 7” ($39.95 retail) includes episodes 19-21 and “Volume 8” ($39.95 retail) includes episodes 22-24. In Swedish with English subtitles.
“BORGEN”: SEASON 2 (MHz Networks): A four-DVD boxed set ($49.95 retail) of all 10 episodes from the 2011 season of the award-winning contemporary political drama, which aired on Link TV in the US, starring Sidse Babett Knudsen as an idealistic politician who is elected Denmark’s first female prime minister. In Danish with English subtitles.
CONFIDENTIAL (Alpha Home Entertainment): After his partner is killed, G-man Donald Cook goes undercover to bust a gambling ring in this average 1935 programmer, co-starring Evalyn Knapp, Herbert Rawlinson, Kane Richmond and J. Carrol Naish (as a heavy, of course).
CROSS STREETS (Alpha Home Entertainment): In an early non-Western role, Johnny Mack Brown is surprisingly good as an alcoholic doctor trying to put his life back together in this occasionally heavyhanded 1934 melodrama.
THE CRUSADER (Alpha Home Entertainment): Pious District Attorney HB Warner is unaware of wife Evelyn Brent’s shady past in this 1932 adaptation of Wilson Collison’s play. Snappy melodrama is hampered by a quick-fix wrap-up that doesn’t ring true, but good work from a cast including Lew Cody, Marceline Day and scene-stealer Ned Sparks as a sleazy reporter.
“DIGIMON TAMERS”: THE OFFICIAL THIRD SEASON (Flatiron Film Company/ Cinedigm): An eight-DVD boxed set ($79.95 retail) of all 51 episodes from the 2001-’02 season of the popular animated Japanese fantasy series — originally titled Dejimon Teimazu and one of the many “Digimon” series’ — in which three kids are drawn into fantastic adventures when the characters on their Digimon cards come to life.
“DORA THE EXPLORER: DORA ROCKS!” (Nickelodeon/Paramount): A DVD collection ($14.99 retail) of three musicoriented episodes from the long-running, award-winning animated children’s series broadcast on Nickelodeon.
“DUCK DYNASTY”: SEASON ONE (A&E Networks): A three-DVD collection ($19.95 retail) of all 15 episodes from the inaugural 2012 season of the top-rated A&E reality series following the Robertson family of Louisiana, makers of duck calls and decoys
JUBAL (The Criterion Collection): A special edition of director Delmer Daves’ 1956 Western, based on Paul Wellman’s novel and clearly inspired by Shakespeare’s Othello, with Glenn Ford as the titular cowpoke who comes between a rancher (Ernest Borgnine) and his tempestuous wife (Valerie French). Rod Steiger plays the envious ranch hand (read Iago). Well-acted by a cast that also includes Charles Bronson, Jack Elam, Felicia Farr and Noah Beery Jr. The DVD retails for $19.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95.
JUSTIN BIEBER: ALWAYS BELIEVING (Entertainment One): For those who can’t get enough of “Bieber Fever,” this unauthorized documentary ($7.98 retail) of the pop sensation was written and directed by executive producer Thomas Gibson, who previously made Biebermania. He’s clearly a “Belieber.”
THE MAN CALLED BACK (Alpha Home Entertainment): Alcoholic doctor Conrad Nagel falls for patient Doris Kenyon in Singapore, then re-encounters her in London where she is now married to adulterous (and ill-fated) cad John Halliday in this musty 1932 melodrama that gets a lift from its cast, which includes Alan Mowbray, Reginald Owen and Mae Busch.
THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER (Summit Entertainment/LionsGate): Firsttime executive producer/director Stephen Chbosky adapts his own bestselling novel with this insightful and ingratiating comingof-age story focusing on a high-school freshman (Logan Lerman) and his friendship with a free-spirited classmate (Emma Watson) and her stepbrother (Ezra Miller). The narration’s a little self-conscious but otherwise this is a winner, with nice support from Mae Whitman, Nina Dobrev, Kate Walsh, Dylan McDermott, Joan Cusack, Paul Rudd, Melanie Lynskey and even Tom Savini. Rated PG-13.
“PORTLANDIA”: SEASON TWO (VSC): Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein return in all 10 episodes from the 2012 season of award-winning IFC comedy series about life in Portland, Ore. created by Armisen, Brownstein and director Jonathan Krisel. Kyle MacLachlan plays the mayor, and guest stars include Jeff Goldblum, Tim Robbins, Amber Tamblyn, Kristen Wiig, Sean Hayes, Jack McBrayer, Penny Marshall, Steve Jones, Andy Samberg and Eddie Vedder. Emmy nominations for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series and Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series. The DVD boxed set retails for $19.95, the Blu-ray boxed set for $24.95.
“TODD AND THE BOOK OF PURE EVIL”: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON (Entertainment One): Alex House returns in the title role of the all-American teen battling monsters in his high school in all 13 episodes from the 2011-’12 season of the popular, awardwinning FEARnet horror/comedy series, also starring Maggie Castle, Bill Turnbull and erstwhile Kevin Smith cohort Jason Mewes. The two-DVD boxed set retails for $19.98.
WALK THE DARK STREET (Alpha Home Entertainment): It’s hunter vs. hunter in writer/producer/director Wyott Ordung’s low-budget 1956 potboiler pitting Chuck Connors, as the vengeful brother of a Korean war casualty, against his brother’s CO (Dan Ross in his screen debut) on the streets of Southern California. Stodgy execution hampers a potentially intriguing exploitation storyline. Ordung’s only film as a producer and last as a director.
WARM BODIES (Summit Entertainment/LionsGate): In a post-apocalyptic future, Nicholas Hoult plays a young zombie smitten with teenager Teresa Palmer in screenwriter/director Jonathan Levine’s lukewarm adaptation of Isaac Marion’s bestseller. The supporting cast includes Rob Corddry, Dave Franco, Analeigh Tipton and a sheepish John Malkovich, who acts like a zombie but isn’t playing one. Rated PG-13.
A WHISPER TO A ROAR (Virgil Films): Over a three-year period, filmmaker Ben Moses filmed the ongoing struggle for democracy in five different countries (Egypt, Malaysia, Ukraine, Venezuela and Zimbabwe) to make this feature documentary narrated by Alfred Molina, now available on DVD ($19.99 retail).
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2013, Mark Burger.