DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: THIEF
(The Criterion Collection)
Filmmaker Michael Mann’s 1981 feature debut is a cool, sleek and cynical film noir that connected more with critics than audiences (although it became a cult hit overseas).
James Caan is perfectly cast as Frank, a hard-bitten ex-con and safe-cracker anxious to make one big score and leave behind his life of crime, but the Chicago mobsters he works for want him to stay exactly where he is. When they start playing rough, Frank has no alternative but to retaliate.
Tuesday Weld brings warmth to the mostly-thankless role of Frank’s girlfriend Jessie, who symbolizes his hopes for the future, and the solid supporting cast includes Jim Belushi (in his screen debut), Willie Nelson (as Frank’s ailing mentor), Tom Signorelli, ex-cop and Mann regular Dennis Farina (in his screen debut) and especially Robert Prosky, in memorably vicious screen debut as Leo, the sinister mob boss bent on breaking Frank.
The DVD/Blu-ray combo ($39.98 retail) includes audio commentary and retrospective interviews. Rated R.
AND THEN THERE WAS YOU (One Village Entertainment/Image Entertainment): Garcelle Beauvais’ seemingly perfect marriage (to Leon) is shattered when she learns he’s been leading a secret life in this romantic drama originally titled Someone to Love. The DVD retails for $14.98.
BANSHEE CHAPTER (Xlrator Media):Actor Zachary Quinto was an executive producer on this intriguing but disjointed shocker following journalist Katia Winter as she delves into the dark secrets of the US Government’s covert chemical experiments. A couple of jolts, but the pseudo- “found-footage” approach is distracting (as usual). Ted Levine has fun as a Hunter S. Thompson-esque writer. Rated R.
COLLISION (LionsGate): Frank Grillo and Jaimie Alexander’s honeymoon in Morocco takes a turn for the worst when they are stranded in the Sahara in writer/ director David Marconi’s R-rated thriller, originally titled Intersections. The DVD retails for $19.98, the Blu-ray for $24.99.
“DALLAS”: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON (Warner Home Video): Romance and intrigue continue at Southfork Ranch and the title town in all 15 episodes from the 2013 season of the TNT drama series, which picks up a generation where the original series left off. The cast includes Jordana Brewster, Josh Hutcherson, Jesse Metcalfe, Julie Gonzalo, Brenda Strong and original cast members Patrick Duffy, Linda Gray and Larry Hagman, in his final turn as JR. The DVD boxed set ($39.98 retail) includes a tribute to the late actor and other bonus features.
THE DIVORCE (One Village Entertainment/Image Entertainment): A marriage gone messy allows TV anchor Dawnn Lewis to party hearty with gal-pals Vanessa Bell Calloway, Tatyana Ali and Angell Conwell in writer/director Don D. Welch’s comedy, on DVD ($14.98 retail).
DOG POUND (Tribeca Film/Cinedigm):First-time director/co-writer Kim Chapiron’s award-winning prison drama follows the travails of three teenagers (Adam Butcher, Shane Kippel and Trent McMullen) incarcerated at a juvenile detention facility in Montana. Repetitious and predictable at times, but well observed and a solid showcase for its lead trio, with Kippel and McMullen making their screen debuts.
EMPIRE STATE (LionsGate): Factbased crime drama with Liam Hemsworth as a security guard drawn into committing robbery. Director Dito Montiel evinces a nice feel for ’80s New York City, but pretty routine nonetheless. Also on hand: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (as a sharp detective), Emma Roberts, Michael Angarano, Michael Rispoli, Nikki Reed, Paul-Ben Victor, Shenae Grimes, and the actual people whom some characters are based on. Rated R.
“THE HALF BROTHER” (MHz Networks): A four-DVD collection ($49.95 retail) of all eight episodes from the inaugural 2013 season of the awardwinning Norwegian mystery series (originally titled Der Halbbruder) starring Nicolai Cleve Broch as a screenwriter who uncovers dark secrets in his family’s past spanning the 20 th century. In Norwegian with English subtitles.
“HIGHLIGHTS OF THE 2013 MAS- TERS TOURNAMENT” (LionsGate): The title tells all in the official documentary ($14.98 retail) recounting last year’s golf championship, in which Adam Scott become the first Australian to triumph.
A NIGHT FOR DYING TIGERS (Monarch Home Entertainment): Terry Miles wrote, edited, co-produced, directed and was co-cinematographer for this talky, pretentious drama about a dysfunctional family gathered the night before one sibling begins a five-year prison stint. The ensemble cast works hard: Gil Bellows, Jennifer Beals, Kathleen Robertson, John Pyper-Ferguson, Lauren Lee Smith, Tygh Runyan and Leah Gibson.
NURSE GIRL DORM: STICKY FIN- GERS (Impulse Pictures): Naughty nurses run amok in this typical 1985 soft-core sex comedy from Japan’s venerable Nikkatsu Studios. Even at 63 minutes this feels longer. Incidentally, “Sticky” is not the word in the onscreen title. In Japanese with English subtitles.
A PORTRAIT OF JAMES DEAN:
JOSHUA TREE, 1951 (Wolfe Video): Writer/director Matthew Mishory’s award-winning, stylized and speculative look at the early career of actor James Dean boasts Michael Marius Pessah’s evocative, mostly black-and-white cinematography, but winds up being arch and arty, replete with heavy homo-erotic overtones. Newcomer James Preston sometimes look like Dean (and sometimes like a young Marlon Brando), but doesn’t much sound like him. An interesting misfire.
PRAYERS FOR BOBBY (LionsGate):Sigourney Weaver earned an Emmy nomination (Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie) for playing Mary Griffith, the real-life gay-rights activist who was inspired after the son (Ryan Kelley) she rejected for coming out killed himself, in director Russell Mulcahy’s 2009 adaptation of Leroy Aarons’ bestseller, broadcast on Lifetime. Additional Emmy nomination for Outstanding Made for Television Movie. The DVD retails for $14.98.
REEL ZOMBIES (Synapse Films): Having made two low-budget zombie movies in the past, independent filmmakers Mike Masters and David J. Francis (playing themselves) embark on making a third — only this one takes place after an actual zombie outbreak, making production both easier and harder. This mock documentary, filmed in 2008, is occasionally spotty but worth a look for genre fans, with in-jokes (including a cameo by the ever-busy Lloyd Kaufman of Troma Films, again playing himself) about the undead and the hazards of indie filmmaking. Screenwriter Masters and editor Francis also co-directed and were producers.
RITUAL (LionsGate): A few spooky scenes in this low-budget shocker with Lisa Summerscales and Dean Cates as an estranged couple pursued by a Satanic cult across the Texas badlands. Rated R.
SEX HUNTER: 1980 (Impulse Pictures): Voyeuristic, typically excessive Nikkatsu Studios soft-core swill, with Erina Miyai enrolled at a ballet academy where there’s more hanky-panky than dancing. There are echoes of Argento’s Suspiria (1977), including stylish visuals, but appealing Miyai’s constant humiliations are more enervating than erotic. In Japanese with English subtitles.
WILD STYLE (Music Box Films Home Entertainment): A 30 th -anniversary collector’s edition ($29.95 retail) of writer/ director Charlie Ahearn’s 1983 urban drama starring real-life New York graffiti artist Lee Quinones as — what else? — a New York graffiti artist whose reputation’s on the rise. A seminal film in hiphop history, featuring early appearances by Fab 5 Freddy, Grandmaster Flash, Cold Crush Brothers and others. Rated R.
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2013, Mark Burger.