DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: GANGSTER (Inception Media Group)
Generic title notwithstanding, writer/director Ray Burdis’ fact-based, award-winning crime saga about Scottish gangster Paul Ferris borrows a few pages from the Martin Scorsese playbook. It’s not Goodfellas (1990) but it’s good all the same.Martin Compston plays Ferris, nicknamed “The Wee Man” (the film’s original title) for his short stature. As a tough guy, however, the cocksure Ferris walks tall in Glasgow. Ferris has no aspirations to grandeur; he’s content to work for local crime boss godfather Arthur Thompson (Patrick Bergin), but when Ferris clashes with Thompson’s hot-tempered, drug-addled son Junior (Stephen McCole), a bloody gang war is inevitable.Compston’s tightly-coiled turn is wellsupported by Bergin, McCole, Denis Lawson, Rita Tushingham, newcomer Daniel Kerr (as young Paul) and especially John Hannah as the treacherous Tam McGraw. The Scottish accents are thick at times, but certain terms and implications are unmistakable in any language!
“42ND STREET FOREVER: THE PEEP SHOW COLLECTION” (Impulse Pictures): For fans of vintage sleaze, these DVD compilations – “Volume 3,” Volume 4″ and “Volume 5″ (each $24.95 retail) boast selections of 8mm “loops” from the ’70s, remastered in high definition (!). Definitely for adults.
ANNA (Vertical Entertainment): “Mind detective” Mark Strong explores the memories of the titular teen (Taissa Farmiga) in this stylish, spooky psycho-thriller that’s a bit too tricky for its own good, but Saskia Reeves, Noah Taylor and reliable Brian Cox round out a solid cast. Rated R.
BETRAYAL (Inception Media Group): A generic title for a generic, cut-rate shoot- ’em-up starring first-time writer/producer/ director Jack Topalian as a former gangster drawn back into action. Second-billed Eric Roberts basically has a cameo as a natty godfather.
CORPUS CHRISTI: PLAYING WITH REDEMPTION (Breaking Glass Pictures): First-time writer/producer/directors Nic Arnzen and James Brandon’s feature documentary details a 2006 Los Angeles revival of Terrence McNally’s 1998 off-Broadway play which re-imagined the life of Jesus Christ in a highly controversial manner: He’s gay and lives in Corpus Christi, Tex. The DVD retails for $19.99.
DARK HEARTS (Vertical Entertainment): Slow-moving, noir-ish thriller with Kyle Schmid and Lucas Till as brothers who fall out over foxy but fickle nightclub singer Sonja Kinski. Rachel Blanchard, Goran Visnjic, Juliet Landau and Richard Edson also appear.
“DUCK DYNASTY”: SEASONS 4-6 (LionsGate): A self-explanatory eight-DVD boxed set ($49.98 retail) of all 30 episodes (plus bonus features) from the 2013 and ’14 seasons of the award-winning History Channel reality series detailing the daily lives of the Robertson clan and their duck-hunting empire. For those who can’t get enough, LionsGate has released the stand-alone “Duck Dynasty: Season 6″ ($19.98 DVD retail, $19.99, Blu-ray retail) and the holidaythemed DVD compilations “Duck Dynasty: Quack or Treat” ($9.98 retail) and “Duck Dynasty: Duck the Halls” ($9.98 retail)
IN THE LAND OF THE CANNIBALS (InterVision): Commandos seeking a senator’s missing daughter (Cindy Matic) find her among a tribe of cannibals in Bruno Mattei’s cheap, cheesy 2003 shocker (also known as Land of Death). Even for undiscriminating gorehounds this is a chore, and the climax is a direct steal from Predator (1987). Mattei here adopts the pseudonym “Martin Miller,” but a hack by any name is still a hack.
A LIFE IN DIRTY MOVIES (Film Movement): Director Wiktor Ericcson’s entertaining, surprisingly touching documentary chronicles the life and career of Joe Sarno (1921-2010), the auteur filmmaker of erotic movies during the era of “porno chic” (Laura’s Toys, Sin in the Suburbs, Moonlighting Wives, etc.), his marriage to wife Peggy, his remarkable resurgence as a cult figure around the world, and his ultimately futile attempt to make one more movie.
MONDO CANNIBAL (InterVision): Bitchy TV reporter Helena Wagner and cocky ex-correspondent Claudio Morales embark on a treacherous Amazonian journey to film cannibals in action – all in the name of big ratings and a possible Pulitzer (!) – in director Bruno Mattei’s gratuitous, gut-munching 2003 shocker (also known as Cannibal World), which is rife with over-acting, goofy dubbing and cheesy gore. Somehow, Mattei (under his usual pseudonym “Vincent Dawn”) works in “messages” (so to speak) about ecological responsibility and media exploitation. An unintentional riot”¦for those who can stomach it. Filmed in the Philippines.
THE M WORD (Breaking Glass Pictures): Henry Jaglom’s latest self-indulgent gabfest depicts goings-on at an independent L.A. TV station. Tanna Frederick, Jaglom’s latest muse and latest wife, plays “Moxie,” who appears on a kiddie show as a character called “Corndog” but wants to make a documentary about menopause. Michael Imperioli (not bad), Corey Feldman (better than expected), Gregory Harrison, Frances Fisher, Mary Crosby, Zack Norman, Michael Emil, Eliza Roberts (Eric’s real-life wife) and Simon O. Jaglom (Henry’s real-life son) also appear. A few interesting ideas, but rarely followed through. The kiddie-show sequences showcase Frederick at her absolute worst. This critic has always considered Henry Jaglom to be “the untalented Robert Altman,” and the opinion stands. Still, he has his devotees. Rated R.
NYMPHOMANIAC: VOL. I & VOL. II (Magnolia Home Entertainment): Asif it weren’t long enough already, this “extended director’s cut” of Lars von Trier’s latest, award-winning, customarily controversial opus follows the emotional and sexual maturation of a girl called “Joe” (newcomer Stacy Martin as a teen, von Trier regular Charlotte Gainsbourg) as an adult. Provocative, stylish and not a little pretentious, if to say nothing of overlong and self-indulgent. Von Trier’s devotees will love it, but others proceed with caution. A star-studded cast includes Shia LaBeouf, Willem Dafoe, Christian Slater, Jamie Bell, Uma Thurman, Connie Nielsen, Sophia Kennedy Clark, Jean-Marc Barr and additional Von Trier regulars Stellan Skarsgard and Udo Kier. The DVD retails for $34.98, the Blu-ray for $39.98.
“SLEAZY SLAUGHTERHOUSE DOUBLE FEATURE” (Alpha New Cinema): The title tells all in this DVD twin-bill ($7.98 retail) subtitled “Sex-Starved Redneck Rampage” and boasting the low-budget, “home-made” horror films Bloodbath in Creightonville (2012) and Last Corpse on the Left (2013), both packed with in-jokes, cheesy gore and gratuitous nudity. But those only go so far “¦ even for die-hard horror exploitation fans. Both films:
SORDID LIVES (Wolfe Video): Playwright Del Shores made his feature directorial debut with this award-winning, R-rated 2000 comedy based on his awardwinning stage smash about a dysfunctional family deep in the heart of Texas. A star-studded cast includes Beau Bridges, Bonnie Bedelia, Olivia Newton-John, Beth Grant and Leslie Jordan. The DVD/Blu-ray combo ($24.95 retail) includes audio commentary and retrospective interviews.
TRU LOVE (Wolfe Video): Writer/producer/directors Kate Johnston and Shauna MacDonald’s award-winning romantic drama stars MacDonald as a bed-hopping lesbian who falls for an older woman (Kate Trotter) – much to the concern of the latter’s daughter (Christine Horne). The DVD retails for $24.95.
VENDETTA (Inception Media Group): Writer/editor/director Stephen Reynolds’ predictable but well-made urban thriller stars Danny Dyer as an ex-soldier seeking revenge after his parents are murdered. Vincent Regan, Roxanne McKee, Bruce Payne, Simona Roman and Ricci Harnett also appear. !
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. ‘© 2014, Mark Burger.