DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: FARGO (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment)
In the annals of Coen Brothers classics, Joel and Ethan reached a pinnacle (one of many) with this outrageously compelling 1996 black comedy that could only have been inspired by actual events.Cash-strapped auto salesman Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) hires a pair of kidnappers (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare) to abduct his wife (Kristin Rudrud), expecting that her wealthy father (Harve Presnell) will pay the ransom.It is said that the best-laid plans go awry, and in this case the plan is not well-laid at all, leading to violence and murder. Enter pregnant police chief Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand), who meticulously pieces together the puzzle.The Coens won their first Oscar for Best Screenplay (this one an original) and McDormand (Joel’s wife) won Best Actress. Additional nominations: Best Picture, Best Director (Joel being credited), Best Supporting Actor (Macy), Best Editing (Joel and Ethan’s “Roderick Jaynes” pseudonym) and Best Cinematography (Roger Deakins, who boasts an 0-10 Oscar record).The new Blu-ray retails for $19.99 and includes audio commentary with Deakins, a trivia track, theatrical trailer and more. Rated R.
BETTIE PAGE REVEALS ALL (Music Box Films Home Entertainment): An attractive, well-assembled, award-winning documentary tracing the life and career of legendary pin-up model Bettie Page (1923-2008) told in her own words and interviews with Hugh Hefner, Dita Von Triese, Naomi Campbell, Laetitia Casta, Tricia Helfer, Mamie Van Doren and more. Rated R.
CLASS OF ‘92 (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): Directors Benjamin and Gabe Turner’s documentary ($19.99 retail) recounts the exploits of soccer players David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, Phil Neville and Paul Scholes, who achieved greatness – and international stardom – when they came together to play for Manchester United in the UK.
DEVIL’S KNOT (RLJ Entertainment/ Image Entertainment): The fascinating, heartbreaking saga of the West Memphis Three – wherein three teens were tried and convicted of the murder of two young boys (and so vividly depicted in Joe Berlinger’s award-winning Paradise Lost documentary trilogy) – seems like it can’t miss, especially in the hands of acclaimed filmmaker Atom Egoyam, but that’s precisely what happens in this well-intentioned but choppy truecrime drama, stranding a star-studded (and hard-working) cast: Colin Firth, Reese Witherspoon, Alessandro Nivola, Mireille Enos, Stephen Moyer, Amy Ryan, Elias Koteas, Bruce Greenwood, Rex Linn, Gary Grubbs and Dane DeHaan. Worth a look, but disappointing nevertheless.
THE FIVE OBSTRUCTIONS (Kino Lorber): Lars von Trier puts a spin on the filmmaking process with this award-winning 2003 documentary feature (originally titled De fem benspaend) in which he challenges fellow filmmaker Jorgen Leth to remake his 1967 classic short The Perfect Human five different times – and five different ways. In Danish, French and Spanish with English subtitles. The remastered special-edition DVD (which includes The Perfect Human), retails for $24.95.
FOLLOW THE SUN (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Glenn Ford plays Ben Hogan in this sympathetic (and slightly hokey) 1951 sports drama detailing the golfer’s career and miraculous comeback after a near-fatal car crash. The cast includes Anne Baxter as Hogan’s stalwart wife, Dennis O’Keefe as a hard-drinking rival and friend, June Havoc as O’Keefe’s long-suffering spouse, Larry Keating as a pushy sportswriter, and real-life golfers Sam Snead, Jimmy Demaret and Cary Middlehoff. Part of the Fox’s Cinema Archives Collection.
“GENERATION WAR” (Music Box Films Home Entertainment): This awardwinning, three-part 2013 mini-series (originally titled Unsere Mutter, unsere Vater) focuses on five friends in 1941 Berlin who are determined to prove their loyalty and heroism during World War II. The ensemble cast includes Volker Bruch, Tom Schilling, Miriam Stein, Katharina Schuttler and Ludwig Trepte. In German with English subtitles. The DVD boxed set retails for $29.95, the Blu-ray boxed set for $34.95.
HUNTING THE LEGEND (RLJ Entertainment/Image Entertainment): Yet another found-footage horror fiasco, this one following filmmakers into the Alabama woods in search of Bigfoot and things that go stomp in the night, marking the feature debut of Justin Steeley, who served as writer, director, executive producer, editor, cinematographer and co-star. This pays “homage” (ahem) to The Blair Witch Project (1999) by having characters argue incessantly and, in one instance, cry on camera.
JOY RIDE 3: ROAD KILL (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Racers en route to a road rally run afoul of Rusty Nail (Ken Kirzinger), the murderous trucker introduced in John Dahl’s 2001 thriller. Not badly made (technically, it’s rather impressive), but a bad movie. Plenty gory, for those who care – and some do. Rated R (also available in an unrated edition).
THE LEGEND OF HERCULES (Summit Entertainment/LionsGate): Renny Harlin directed this PG-13-rated fantasy/ adventure starring Kellan Lutz in the title role of the fabled muscleman of Greek mythology, available on DVD ($29.95 retail) and 3-D Blu-ray ($39.99 retail). LionsGate is also releasing “Hercules: Hero, God, Warrior” ($14.98 retail), a collection of three History Channel documentaries: Hercules: Power of the Gods, Clash of the Gods: Hercules and In Search of History: The Greek Gods.
“LOVEJOY”: SERIES 1 (RLJ Entertainment/Acorn): Ian McShane introduces the titular character of smooth-talking antiques dealer and amateur sleuth, in all 10 episodes from the inaugural 1986 season of the popular BBC crime series created by Ian La Frenais. The three-DVD boxed set retails for $49.99.
“RED SHOE DIARIES”: SEASON ONE (Kino Lorber): A two-DVD collection ($29.95 retail) of all 13 episodes from the inaugural 1992 season of filmmaker Zalman King’s erotic anthology series, aired on Showtime, with each episode based on a woman’s secret diary. David Duchovny hosted and occasionally starred, and Ely Pouget also played a recurring character. Guest stars included Nina Siemaszko, Matt LeBlanc, Joan Severance, Steven Bauer, Denise Crosby, Laura Johnson, Maryam d’Abo, Annabelle Gurwitch, Sheryl Lee and one-time O.J. Simpson girlfriend Paula Barbieri. Kino Lorber has also released the original 1992 Red Shoe Diaries pilot film ($26.99 retail), starring Duchovny, Brigitte Bako and Billy Wirth, as well as Pleasure or Pain (2012), King’s final completed feature before his death that year.
SODOM AND GOMORRAH (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): The twin cities of sin come tumbling down in director Robert Aldrich’s dusty, blustery 1962 Biblical epic filmed in Morocco, being released as part of the studio’s “Cinema Archives” collection. The cast tries hard: Stewart Granger (as Lot), Stanley Baker, Pier Angeli, Rosanna Podesta and Anouk Aimee (as the wicked Queen). Miklos Rosza provides an appropriately bombastic score.
STILL MINE (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Writer/director Michael McGowan’s award-winning, fact-based, PG-13-rated drama stars James Cromwell and Genevieve Bujold as an elderly couple determined to build their final home in rural New Brunswick (Canada), in defiance of local bureaucracy. The DVD retails for $22.98, the Blu-ray for $29.99.
A TOUCH OF SIN (Kino Lorber): Jia Zhanke’s award-winning treatise on violence and corruption in contemporary China (originally titled Tian zhu ding) in four vignettes, starring Jiang Wu, Luo Lanshan, Baoqiang Wang and Zhanke’s real-life wife Zhao Tao. In Mandarin with English subtitles. The DVD retails for $29.95, the Blu-ray for $34.95. !
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2014, Mark Burger.