DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: LEVIATHAN (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory)
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, this water-logged 1989 sci-fi farrago definitely qualifies as a turkey – although a wellmade, star-studded and amusing one.Less a cult classic than a guilty pleasure, Leviathan is bursting with talent: Stan Winston special effects, Ron Cobb production design, Jerry Goldsmith score, Jeb Stuart (Die Hard) and David Webb Peoples (Unforgiven) penned the derivative screenplay, director George P. Cosmatos’ track record boasted some hack classics (including The Cassandra Crossing and Rambo), and a talented cast included Peter Weller, Richard Crenna, Hector Elizondo, Ernie Hudson, Daniel Stern, Lisa Eilbacher, Amanda Pays, Meg Foster and Michael Carmine (who died shortly after its release).The crew of the hi-tech undersea mining facility Shack 7 is threatened by a genetic mutation that kills and absorbs its victims. Essentially, it’s Alien (1979) and The Thing (1982) at the bottom of the ocean. In the end, everything goes boom – including the monster.This was one of several underwater fantasies released almost simultaneously, including James Cameron’s bloated The Abyss (1989), Sean S. Cunningham’s goofy DeepStar Six (1988), the boring Roger Corman low-budgeter Lords of the Deep (1989) and the 1990 Italian-made fiasco Endless Descent (AKA The Rift). By default, Leviathan is the best of the bunch … but it’s hardly a laudatory distinction.The special-edition Blu-ray ($24.97 retail) includes retrospective interviews and the original trailer. Rated R. **
“BORSELLINO, THE 57 DAYS/ GIOVANNI FALCONE: THE JUDGE” (MHz Networks): A DVD double-feature ($29.95 retail) of fact-based Italian TV movies, the first (originally titled Paolo Borsellini: I 57 giorni) a 2012 drama starring Luca Zingaretti as a judge in Palermo targeted by the Mafia while investigating its ties to the government, and the second (originally titled Giovanni Falcone, l’uomo che sfido Cosa Nostra), an award-winning 2006 drama about a Sicilian judge (played by Massimo Dapporto) who delved into the Mafia’s financial dealings in the 1980s and ‘90s. In Italian with English subtitles.
BRAZILIAN WESTERN (Shout! Factory): Director Rene Sampaio’s awardwinning crime drama takes its inspiration from the popular South American ‘80s song Faroeste caboclo (the film’s original title) and Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, as Fabricio Boliveira and Isis Valverde play star-crossed lovers amid violence and danger. In Portuguese with English subtitles. The DVD/Blu-ray combo retails for $24.97.
“THE FIELD OF BLOOD”: SET 1 (RLJ Entertainment/Acorn): Jayd Johnson gives an award-winning performance as Paddy Meehan, an ambitious young crime reporter striving to break big stories in ‘80s-era Glasgow in the first two feature-length episodes from the inaugural 2011 season of the critically acclaimed mystery series based on Denise Mina’s best-selling novels, costarring David Morrissey, Matt Costello, Bronagh Gallagher and Peter Capaldi. The two-DVD collection ($39.99 retail) includes The Field of Blood and The Dead Hour.
“GENE AUTRY COLLECTION 8” (Timeless Media Group): A self-explanatory, two-DVD collection ($16.97 retail) of four vintage Westerns: Trail to San Antone (1947), Riders in the Sky and Riders of the Whistling Pines (both 1949), and Saginaw Trail (1953)
“IN THE FACE OF CRIME” (MHz Networks): An award-winning 10-part 2010 German mini-series (originally titled Im Angesicht des Verbrechens) starring Max Reimelt as a Russian Jewish detective whose decision to serve as a detective in Berlin forces him to confront cultural xenophobia and his own past – especially when he finds himself on the trail of a notorious Russian gangster (Georgiy Povolotskiy). The four-DVD collection retails for $39.95. In German with English subtitles.
“MOTOWN 25: YESTERDAY, TODAY, FOREVER” (StarVista Entertainment/Time Life): A star-studded line-up of music luminaries including Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross, The Temptations, the Four Tops, Michael Jackson (introducing the “moon walk”) and host Richard Pryor appear in this prime-time 1983 NBC special that paid homage to the history and enduring legacy of Motown Records and won the Emmy Award as Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Program, with eight additional nominations including Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program (Pryor and Jackson) and Outstanding Directing in a Variety or Music Program. The single DVD retails for $19.95, the 3-DVD edition for $39.95, and the six-DVD “exclusive collection” for $79.95.
“M SQUAD”: THE COMPLETE TV SERIES – SPECIAL EDITION (Timeless Media Group): Lee Marvin solidified his tough-guy status as Chicago detective Lt. Frank Ballinger in this NBC crime series that ran 1957-’60, with Paul Newlan as Ballinger’s boss Capt. Grey and a star-studded line-up of guest stars including Charles Bronson, Burt Reynolds, James Coburn, Angie Dickinson, Mike Connors, Don Rickles, Janice Rule, future “Star Trek” icons Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley (not in the same episode), and many more. This 16-DVD boxed set contains all 177 episodes from all three seasons plus bonus features.
“REPUBLIC OF DOYLE”: SEASON 2 (RLJ Entertainment/Acorn): Allan Hawco and ex-cop father Sean McGinley are up to their old tricks as private investigators in Newfoundland in all 13 episodes from the 2011 season of the award-winning Canadian mystery series (co-created by Hawco). Mark O’Brien, Linda Boyd and Marthe Bernard round out the Doyle clan, with guest stars Victor Garber, Nicholas Campbell, Kristin Booth and Martha Burns dropping by. The three-DVD collection retails for $39.99.
ROGER & ME (Warner Home Video): A 25 th anniversary special-edition Blu-ray ($19.99 retail) of Michael Moore’s persuasive, award-winning 1989 documentary debut, in which he tries to interview General Motors chairman Roger Smith over the corporation’s decision to close plants and eliminate jobs in Moore’s hometown (and GM’s headquarters) of Flint, Mich. Rated R.
“THE SAINT”: SET 1 (RLJ Entertainment/Acorn): Simon Dutton follows George Sanders, Roger Moore, Ian Ogilvy and (ugh) Val Kilmer as the dashing and dauntless Simon Templar in three feature-length TV movies based on the popular character created by Leslie Charteris, broadcast in 1989 but rarely seen in the US: The Brazilian Connection, The Blue Dulac and Fear in Fun Park. The DVD collection retails for $49.99.
THE T.A.M.I. SHOW (Shout! Factory): This legendary but little-seen 1964 concert documentary features such luminaries as The Rolling Stones, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, James Brown, Diana Ross & The Supremes, The Beach Boys, and many others. The titular acronym has variously been reported as meaning “Teenage Awards Music International” or “Teen Age Music International.” The collector’s-edition DVD ($12.99 retail) includes audio commentary with director Steve Binder, original trailer and radio spots.
TAMMY (Warner Home Video): Producer/co-screenwriter Melissa McCarthy stars in the title role of co-screenwriter/ real-life husband Ben Falcone’s directorial debut, a raucous R-rated comedy in which she hits the road with her giddy granny (Susan Sarandon). Allison Janney, Dan Aykroyd, Kathy Bates, Gary Cole and Toni Collette round out the cast. The DVD retails for $28.98, the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $35.99.
THUNDER AND THE HOUSE OF MAGIC (Shout! Factory): This animated family comedy (originally titled simply The House of Magic) stars Murray Blue as the voice of the title character, an adventurous feline who stumbles into a mysterious house owned by a retired magician (voiced by Doug Stone). The DVD retails for $16.97, the 3-D Blu-ray/ DVD combo for $24.97. !
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2014, Mark Burger.