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[VIDEO VAULT]

by Mark Burger

DVD PICK OF THE WEEK:’ THE ICEMAN

(Millenium Entertainment):’ Michael Shannon delivers another powerful performance as hired killer Richard Kuklinski, known as the “Iceman” for his ruthless efficiency. When this Iceman cometh, people die — more than 100, according to some accounts.

Based on of Anthony Bruno’s bestseller, first-time director/co-screenwriter Ariel Vromen assembles familiar trappings of mob movies as the story follows Kuklinski’s violent career, which he successfully hides — for a time, anyway — from his wife (Winona Ryder) and children.

In no way does the film glamorize the underworld; it’s a dark, cold-blooded business fraught with mistrust and paranoia. It’s not kill-or-be-killed, it’s kill-and-kill-again.

A polished cast includes mob-movie perennials Ray Liotta and Robert Davi (what would a film like this be without them?), Stephen Dorff as Kuklinski’s jailbird brother, and grubby turns by James Franco, David Schwimmer and an almost-unrecognizable Chris Evans, but it’s Shannon’s coolly controlled, tightly-coiled performance that dominates. This is his movie, and he rocks it.’ Rated R.

CITIZEN HEARST (LionsGate): William H. Macy narrates this disappointing documentary about media mogul William Randolph Hearst (1863-1951), which skirts over much of his controversial life and ultimately becomes a self-congratulatory infomercial about the current corporation.

“DA VINCI’S DEMONS”: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Tom Riley stars as the young Leonardo Da Vinci, portrayed here as a renegade genius determined to bring knowledge and enlightenment to the world — which his enemies try to use to discredit him. All eight episodes from the inaugural 2013 season of this Starz Original series are included in a DVD ($44.99 retail) or Blu-ray ($54.99 retail) collection, replete with special features for “Da Vinci” devotees. Three Emmy nominations: Outstanding Visual Effects, Outstanding Main Title Design and Outstanding Main Title Theme Music.

“DON MATTEO” (MHz Networks): Long-time spaghetti Western favorite Terence Hill (AKA Mario Girotti) trades his six-guns for the priestly collar of the title character, a kindly parish priest with an uncanny knack for solving crime, in this long-running (11 seasons) Italian mystery series. “Set 5” includes episodes 33-44 and “Set 6” includes episodes 45-56. In Italian with English subtitles. Each four-DVD collection retails for $39.95.

“ENLIGHTENED”: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON” (HBO Home Entertainment): This DVD collection ($39.98 retail) includes all eight episodes from the 2013 (and final) season of the critically-acclaimed and award-winning HBO comedy series starring Laura Dern as a woman whose recovery from a breakdown tends to make those around her very, very nervous. Dern is also an executive producer and creator of the series with writer/co-star/frequent director Mike White. Also with Luke Wilson, Dermot Mulroney, Molly Shannon and Dern’s real-life mom Diane Ladd (as her mom). Emmy nominations for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series (Dern) and Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series (Shannon).

“FEMME FATALES”: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON (Entertainment One): A three-DVD boxed set ($29.98 retail) of all 12 episodes from the 2012 season of the Cinemax anthology inspired by pulp novels and film noir, often with a lethal leading lady — or two. Tanit Phoenix plays the appropriately alluring host, with guest stars including Steve Railsback, Eric Roberts, Jeff Fahey, Vivica A. Fox, Robert Picardo, Ellie Cornell, Casper Van Dien, Antonio Sabato Jr., Kyle Gass, Jeffrey Combs and Chris Mulkey.

GOOD LUCK, MISS WYCKOFF (Vinegar Syndrome): Something went very wrong in this 1979 screen version of William Inge’s novel, adapted by Polly Platt and directed by Marvin J. Chomsky, starring Anne Heywood as a sexually repressed high-school teacher in 1954 Kansas who engages in a sadomasochistic affair with an aggressive black student (John Lafayette in his screen debut). Racial stereotyping is only one of many problems in this sputtering soap opera, despite a cast including Donald Pleasence, Robert Vaughn, Dorothy Malone, Earl Holliman, Ronee Blakley, R.G. Armstrong, Jocelyn Brando, Doris Roberts, Dana Elcar and Carolyn Jones (in her final feature film). Producer Raymond Stross was married to Heywood and produced several of her films. This was the last and likely the worst. Still, curiosity seekers may find this a fascinating misfire given its pedigree. Also released in a butchered, more exploitative version called The Sin and later on homevideo as The Shaming. The special-edition DVD/Blu-ray combo ($24.98 retail) includes both versions and Ernest Gold’s soundtrack on CD. Rated R.

HATCHET III (Dark Sky Films): The splattery savagery continues in the third installment of writer/executive producer Adam Green’s homage to ’80s slasher films, with Kane Hodder back as swamp-dwelling fiend Victor Crowley and Danielle Harris as vengeful heroine Marybeth, backed by such genre favorites as Zach Galligan, Caroline Williams and Derek Mears. The DVD retails for $27.98, the Blu-ray for $34.98. Both contain both the R-rated theatrical cut and an unrated version.

HORNY DIVER: TIGHT SHELLFISH (Impulse Pictures): With a title like that, this could only be another Nikkatsu Studios softcore sexploitation comedy, this one a 1985 effort involving nubile young divers who battle a greedy developer. In Japanese with English subtitles.

“THE INSPECTOR VIVALDI MYSTERIES” (MHz Networks): Lando Buzzanca plays the title role of an old-school cop contending with problems at home and at work in this four-DVD collection ($39.95 retail) of episodes from the popular Italian mystery series. In Italian with English subtitles.

THE JEFFREY DAHMER FILES (IFC Films): Producer/director/editor/co-writer Chris James Thompson’s sketchy documentary about the notorious serial killer includes interviews, archival footage and re-enactments, yet feels incomplete. A missed opportunity.

THE NIGHT VISITOR (VCI Entertainment): Mel Ferrer produced Laslo Benedek’s 1970 thriller starring Max von Sydow as Salem, confined to an asylum after a murder conviction, who has devised an elaborate escape plan by which he terrorizes his sister and brother-in-law (Liv Ullmann and Per Oscarsson), whom he thinks framed him. Wintry locations in Denmark and Sweden provide excellent atmosphere, but this is a thriller that depends on its characters being slow on the uptake. The three Ingmar Bergman regulars are joined by Trevor Howard (as the obligatory inspector), Andrew Keir and Rupert Davies. A decade later, this was re-released as Lunatic to cash in on the slasher craze. Rated PG.

WORLD WAR Z (Paramount): Executive producer Brad Pitt saves the world from a zombie outbreak in this grand-scale but scattershot adaptation of Max Brooks’ best-seller, available as a single DVD ($29.99 retail), a DVD/Blu-ray combo ($39.99 retail) and a 3-D DVD/Blu-ray combo ($49.99 retail). Rated PG-13 (also available in an unrated version).’ 

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