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 marksburger@yahoo.com

DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: SORCERER 

(Warner Home Video)

Thanks to the one-two punch of The French Connection (1971) – for which he won an Oscar – and The Exorcist (1973), filmmaker William Friedkin was sitting pretty in Hollywood, but his career was dented (not derailed) by this costly 1977 remake of Clouzot’s 1953 classic The Wages of Fear.

Roy Scheider, Bruno Cremer, Francisco Rabal and Amidou play four disparate, desperate men wallowing in a South American hellhole offered quick cash to transport nitroglycerin across 200 miles of hellish terrain to cap an oil-well explosion. Thus begins a rugged, ragged, harrowing, sometimes heavy-handed existential journey conveyed in alternately gritty and surreal terms, with Tangerine Dream’s pounding score accentuating the ride. (The film’s single Oscar nomination was for Best Sound.)

Most critics weren’t kind to Sorcerer, audiences flocked to Star Wars, and Friedkin’s admitted egotism and hubris didn’t help matters. But Sorcerer, which some Hollywood wags dubbed “Friedkin’s Folly,” is frequently absorbing and has moments of greatness. It may not eclipse Clouzot’s original — in fact it doesn’t — but is certainly warrants reassessment and belated praise.

The DVD retails for $12.96, the Blu-ray book for $27.98. Rated PG.

THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY (Warner Home Video): The Blu-ray bow ($19.98 retail) of Clint Eastwood’s wistful, lyrical 1995 adaptation of Robert Waller’s best-seller, depicting the four-day romance between a veteran photojournalist (Eastwood) and an Italian-born farm wife (Meryl Streep, who earned an Oscar nomination as Best Actress). Flowery at times, but on the whole an improvement on the novel … although many besotted readers would argue! Rated PG-13.

THE GODFATHER: PART III (Paramount): The digitally-remastered Blu-ray bow ($22.98 retail) of Francis Coppola’s long-awaited 1990 sequel to his ‘70s classics based on Mario Puzo’s original novel, with series mainstays Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, Talia Shire, Richard Bright and Al Martino joined by Andy Garcia (terrific), Coppola’s daughter Sofia (not terrific), George Hamilton, always welcome Eli Wallach, John Savage, Joe Mantegna, Raf Vallone and Bridget Fonda. Visually stunning, with some intriguing plot turns – especially the Corleone family’s dealings with the Vatican — but the personal stories aren’t nearly as compelling. Still worth a look, especially for fans of the franchise. Seven Academy Award nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Garcia), Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction/Set Decoration, Best Editing and Best Song (“Promise Me You’ll Remember”). Rated R.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Jeremy Irvine and Holliday Granger play the star-crossed lovers Pip and Estella in director Mike Newell’s award-winning, PG-13-rated adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic, backed by a star-studded cast: Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane, Ewen Bremner and Sally Hawkins. The DVD retails for $22.98, the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $29.99.

INDEPENDENCE DAYSASTER (Anchor Bay): The fireworks start early on the Fourth of July when Earth is attacked by aliens in this silly but fast-moving sci-fi/disaster melodrama originally aired as a Syfy Orginal Movie. A spirited cast includes Ryan Merriman, Andrea Brooks, Emily Holmes, Keenan Tracy and Tom Everett Scott (as a youthful US President). Rated PG-13.

IN THE BLOOD (Anchor Bay/Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Gina Carano’s Puerto Rican honeymoon goes haywire when husband Cam Gigandet goes missing in this routine, convoluted thriller directed in customarily underwhelming fashion by former actor John Stockwell. Treat Williams, Luis Guzman, Danny Trejo, Amaury Nolasco and Stephen Lang (in flashback) are also on hand, to little effect. Rated R.

THE INVOKING (RLJ Entertainment/Image Entertainment): Trin Miller toplines writer/producer/director Jeremy Berg’s debut feature as a young woman who brings friends to claim inheritance of a house in the remote region of Sader Ridge (the film’s original title) – at which point spooky doings commence. Spotty but well-acted, particularly by D’Angelo Midili in an award-winning turn as the caretaker.

JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT (Paramount): Chris Pine steps into the shoes of Tom Clancy’s eponymous CIA-analyst hero in this Cold War thriller directed by Kenneth Branagh (who plays the Russian heavy), with Kevin Costner, Keira Knightley, Colm Feore and an unbilled cameo by Mikhail Baryshnikov. Not the blockbuster the studio hoped for, but competent enough espionage fare. Rated PG-13.

THE LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU (The Criterion Collection): The Blu-ray bow ($39.95 retail) of Wes Anderson’s customarily colorful, quirky and award-winning 2004 comedy, which follows a famed oceanographer (Bill Murray) as he pursues the shark that killed his partner. As always, Anderson allows his all-star cast a wide berth to shine: Owen Wilson, Cate Blanchett, Anjelica Huston, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Michael Gambon, Noah Taylor, Bud Cort and Seymour Cassel. Criterion, as always, provides a bevy of extra features including audio commentary, documentary, interviews and more. Rated R.

“LONGMIRE”: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON (Warner Home Video): Robert Taylor lays down the law in all 13 episodes from the award-winning, A&E contemporary Western series based on Craig Johnson’s best-selling series of Walt Longmire Mysteries. The regular cast includes Lou Diamond Phillips, Katee Sackhoff, Bailey Chase, Adam Bartley and Cassidy Freeman. The three-DVD boxed set retails for $39.98.

“NIKITA”: THE COMPLETE FOURTH AND FINAL SEASON (Warner Home Video): Lovely, lethal Maggie Q completes her deadly mission in the final six episodes from the 2013 season of the award-winning CW Television Network action series, the second series based on Luc Besson’s 1990 feature La Femme Nikita. Emmy nomination for Outstanding Sound Editing for a Series. The DVD boxed set retails for $19.98, the Blu-ray boxed set for $25.98.

NON-STOP (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): Liam Neeson’s back in action as a troubled air marshal aboard a trans-Atlantic flight where bodies start piling up … but whodunit?  Well-paced, stylish and entertaining … just don’t think too hard about the plot particulars. The supporting cast includes Julianne Moore (always good, as always), Corey Stoll, Scoot McNairy, Linus Roache and 12 Years a Slave Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o, in a small role of a stewardess. The DVD retails for $29.98, the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $34.98. Rated PG-13.

SQUATTERS (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Homeless Gabriella Wilde and Thomas Dekker set up house in the Pacific Palisades estate of a vacationing family (Richard Dreyfuss, Lolita Davidovich and Luke Grimes) that unexpectedly comes home early. Good performances in this visually impressive but overly arty, sometimes contrived melodrama. Rated R.

TENTACLE 8 (Grand Entertainment Group): Writer/producer/director John Chi’s ambitious debut feature is an ambitious and timely political thriller starring Brett Rickaby as an NSA operative swept up in international intrigue centering around the titular computer program. Convoluted and sometimes overcomplicated, but chilling in its implications at times. Worth a look for conspiracy buffs.

UNACCEPTABLE LEVELS (TDC Entertainment): First-time writer/director Ed Brown’s award-winning documentary feature ($19.95 retail) explores the ramifications and consequences of the chemical revolution of the 1940s upon the contemporary 21st-century population, featuring interviews with scientists, experts and other notables (Ralph Nader among them).

MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2014, Mark Burger.

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