DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: ALAN PARTRIDGE (Magnolia Home Entertainment)
Having tasted dramatic acclaim as producer, coscreenwriter and star of Philomena, which earned four Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay, Steve Coogan resumes funny business by resurrecting his award-winning TV character (and caricature) — the self-absorbed, self-deluded, and utterly asinine media personality Alan Partridge.Alan’s still on the air – as a disc jockey at a Norfolk radio station – and still making a fool of himself. When new management comes in, Alan causes fellow disc jockey Pat Farrell (Colm Meaney) to lose his job, which prompts the depressed, shotgun-toting Pat to take over the station “for the love of radio.”What follows is the wackiest hostage situation in recent memory, punctuated by a barrage of non-sequiturs and one-liners. At every conceivable turn, Alan does or says the wrong thing, making the situation worse – and more uproarious. This is Coogan’s show (he’s executive producer and co-screenwriter), but strong support is served up by Meaney, Felicity Montagu, Monica Dolan and Sean Pertwee, all essentially playing straight man to Coogan’s rampant buffoonery. Director Declan Lowney keeps the cheerfully absurdist proceedings rolling along nicely. The DVD retails for $26.98, the Blu-ray for $29.98. Rated R.
ADULT WORLD (IFC Films/MPI Media Group): Aspiring poet Emma Roberts takes a job at an adult video store while ingratiating herself with her literary hero (John Cusack) in actor-turned-director Scott Coffey’s obvious comedy. Andy Cochran’s script (his first feature) is too cutesy for its own good. Roberts and co-star Evan Peters are now an off-screen duo. Rated R.
“COMEDY BANG! BANG!”: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON (Anchor Bay): A four-DVD collection ($39.98 retail) of all 20 episodes from the 2013 season of the IFC improvisational comedy series (originally a radio show), a faux talk show hosted by series creator Scott Aukerman and co-hosted by Reggie Watts, featuring guest appearances by Selma Blair, Jessica Alba, David Cross, Zach Galifianakis, Anna Kendrick, Adam Scott, Will Forte, Nick Offerman, Pee-Wee Herman (Paul Reubens), Sarah Silverman and others.
COMMITMENT (Well Go USA Entertainment): Korean superstar Choi Seunghyun (AKA T.O.P.) plays a secret agent’s son pressed into service when he and his sister (Han Ye-ri) are sent to prison, then betrayed. Director Hong-soo Park’s action thriller (originally titled Dong-changsaeng) retails for $24.98 (DVD) or $29.98 (Blu-ray). In Korean with English subtitles.
CONCRETE BLONDES (Inception Media Group): Bubble-headed, Tarantino-esque shoot-’em-up with Samaire Armstrong, Carly Pope and Diora Baird as three gals who try to smuggle $3 million of mob money out of the country – which is not necessarily conducive to longevity. A nice try that doesn’t quite work, although it kills time easily enough. John Rhys-Davies brings his customary panache to the role of a crime boss. Set in St. Louis but shot in Canada by ace cinematographer Mark Irwin.
CONTRACTED (IFC Midnight/MPI Media Group): After a one-night stand, Najarra Townsend begins to manifest unhealthy, ultimately gruesome symptoms in writer/producer/director Eric England’s queasy shocker with abundant metaphors, black-comedy overtones and, alas, some story problems. Kevin Riepl’s score and Mike Testin’s stylish cinematography are standouts.
EVERYDAY (MPI Media Group): Michael Winterbottom’s maudlin drama stars John Simm as an imprisoned convict and Shirley Henderson as his wife, struggling to hold their family together. Filmed over a five-year span, so the youngsters playing the couple’s children (real-life siblings Shaun, Robert, Stephanie and Katrina Kirk) literally grow up during the course of the film, but the idea is more inspired than the movie itself, although the performances are sincere and naturalistic. Originally made for British TV but released to theaters elsewhere.
FRACKNATION (Magnet Releasing): Journalist Phelim McAleer interviews scientists and residents of regions where the controversial practice of “fracking” (hydraulic fracturing) occurs, in this PGrated environmental documentary. The DVD retails for $26.98, the Blu-ray for $29.98.
HARRY DEAN STANTON: PARTLY FICTION (Adopt Films/Kino Lorber): Sophie Huber’s effortlessly engaging documentary traces the life and career of prolific character actor Harry Dean Stanton, featuring interviews with Kris Kristofferson, David Lynch, Deborah Harry, Sam Shepard, Wim Winders and, best of all, Stanton himself. Seamus McGarvey’s black-and-white/color cinematography is a superb.
HAUNT (IFC Midnight/MPI Media Group): Director Mac Carter’s stylish but unsatisfying debut feature is a puzzling, slow-moving chiller with Harrison Gilbertson a teenager who falls for neighbor Liana Liberato when they begin delving into the tragic past of the house his family has just moved into … with expectedly dire results. Jacki Weaver, Ione Skye and Brian Wimmer are mostly squandered in support. Rated R.
HEARTS AND MINDS (The Criterion Collection): A DVD/Blu-ray combo ($39.95 retail) of Peter Davis’ highly controversial but undeniably effective 1974 anti-war documentary about the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War. Shortly after this won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature – which caused something of a stir within Oscar ranks – the US pulled its last troops out and Saigon fell to North Vietnam, essentially ending the war. One-sided, to be sure, but powerful nonetheless. Special features include an audio commentary with Davis and over two hours’ worth of unused footage. Rated R.
THE TRUTH ABOUT EMANUEL (Well Go USA Entertainment): Writer/ director Francesca Gregorini’s awardwinning psychological thriller stars Kaya Scodelario as a teenager obsessed with new neighbor Jessica Biel, a dead ringer for her dead mother. Alfred Molina, Frances O’Connor and Jimmi Simpson co-star. The DVD retails for $24.98, the Blu-ray for $29.98.
“WALLANDER 3” (MHz Networks): Krister Henriksson reprises his role as veteran detective Kurt Wallander, trying to keep the pieces of his life together while piecing together intricate mysteries, in all six episodes from the 2013 season of the award-winning Swedish mystery series based on Henning Mankell’s best-selling series of novels. In Swedish with English subtitles. The four-DVD collection retails for $69.95.
WHO IS HARRY KELLERMAN AND WHY IS HE SAYING THOSE TERRI- BLE THINGS ABOUT ME? (CBS DVD/ Paramount): New York songwriter Dustin Hoffman is consumed by his neuroses in this 1971 comedy penned by Herb Gardner, directed by Ulu Grosbard and scored by Shel Silverstein (who also appears). With that line-up, the results are weirdly self-indulgent – ditto Hoffman’s performance – but at least it’s an interesting failure and it could only have been made in the ‘70s. Also on hand: Jack Warden (surprisingly uneven as Hoffman’s shrink), Dom DeLuise, Rose Gregorio (then Mrs. Grosbard), Gabriel Dell and Barbara Harris, who scored an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actress. Rated R. **
WINTER’S TALE (Warner Home Video): Oscar-winning screenwriter Akiva Goldsman adapted and makes his directorial debut with this PG-13-rated adaptation of Mark Helprin’s best-seller about a star-crossed, mythical romance between master thief Colin Farrell and ailing heiress Jessica Brown Findlay. Despite a star-studded cast of previous Oscar winners including Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, William Hurt and Eva Marie Saint, this engendered little love at the box-office. The DVD retails for $28.98, the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $35.99. !
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2014, Mark Burger.