DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: FITZCARRALDO (Shout! Factory)
Werner Herzog’s award-winning 1982 epic is a grand celebration of the folly and imagination of man and likewise the folly and imagination of filmmaking.Set in early 20th-century Peru (and loosely based on true events), the story follows Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald, known as “Fitzcarraldo,” an eccentric entrepreneur and aspiring rubber baron obsessed with building an opera house in the middle of the jungle so that his favorite singer, Enrico Caruso, can perform there.
Long-time Herzog collaborator Klaus Kinski gives one of his best performances in the title role of the mad dreamer just fearless and courageous enough to make his seemingly impossible dream come true, and Claudia Cardinale equals him as Fitzcarraldo’s long-suffering but stalwart lover and partner.
This is a film brimming with color, passion and life, a bit on the long side but frequently breathtaking and even exhilarating in its grandeur and glory “” a true one of a kind. (The story of the making of Fitzcarraldo is told in Les Blank’s exemplary 1983 documentary Burden of Dreams, which is well worth seeking out.)
The Blu-ray ($24.97 retail) includes Herzog’s audio commentary, in both English and German. Likewise, the film has English and German (with English subtitles) audio tracks. Rated PG.
AGE OF UPRISING (Music Box Films Home Entertainment): Mads Mikkelsen stars as a vengeful 16th-century German rebel in Arnaud des PalliÃ¨res’ awardwinning screen adaptation of Heinrich von Kleist’s international best-seller Michael Kohlhaas (the film’s original title), inspired by the life of the actual Hans Kohlhase. In French with English subtitles. The DVD retails for $29.95; the Blu-ray for $34.95.
ANNABELLE (Warner Home Video): A diabolical doll is to blame for supernatural shenanigans in this hoary, ham-fisted prequel/spin-off to 2013’s The Conjuring, set in 1969 and focusing on an expectant couple named Mia (Annabelle Wallis) and John (Ward Horton). Shades of Rosemary’s Baby (1968), no? Actually, very no. One of 2014’s dopiest films but a box-office hit. The doll gives one of the livelier performances. The DVD retails for $28.98; the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $35.99. Rated R.
THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL (Shout! Factory): The Blu-ray bow ($24.97 retail) of director Franklin J. Schaffner’s enjoyable 1978 adaptation of Ira Levin’s pulp best-seller, starring Gregory Peck as Nazi scientist Josef Mengele, who has successfully cloned Adolf Hitler (94 times!), and Laurence Olivier (Oscar nominee for Best Actor) as the dogged Nazi hunter on his trail. A classy supporting cast adds weight: James Mason, Lilli Palmer, Rosemary Harris, Denholm Elliott, Uta Hagen, Denholm Elliott, Steve Guttenberg, John Rubinstein, Anne Meara (effective in a dramatic role), Bruno Ganz, Michael Gough, John Dehner, Walter Gotell and newcomer Jeremy Black as the boys. Jerry Goldsmith’s Oscar-nominated score is customarily superb, and a third nomination went to editor Robert Swink. Rated R.
FREE FALL (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Producer Malek Akkad’s directorial debut sees corporate malfeasance turn murderous, as young executive Sarah Butler is trapped in a high-rise office building by hired killer D.B. Sweeney. Slick, sleek and one-note throughout, though the cast works hard. Robert Tomei is amusing as a luckless repairman, Malcolm McDowell is cast to type as a ruthless tycoon, and Akkad appears as a doctor. Rated R.
FRIEND 2: THE LEGACY (CJ Entertainment): Writer/director Kwak Kyung-taek’s follow-up (originally titled Chingu 2) to his award-winning 2001 hit sees Yoo Oh-seong encoring as a career criminal up to his old tricks after a 17-year prison sentence. In Korean with English subtitles. The DVD retails for $26.98.
GET ON UP (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): Chadwick Boseman’s first-rate portrayal of James Brown is the best thing about this glossy, awardwinning bio-pic about the turbulent life of “the Godfather of Soul,” which tends to white-wash the more controversial aspects of said life. It’s watchable, but a missed opportunity. Viola Davis (James’ mother) and Octavia Spencer (James’ aunt) have little to do, but Nelsan Ellis (band-mate Bobby Byrd) and Dan Aykroyd (record exec Ben Bart) offer good support. The DVD retails for $29.98; the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $34.98. Rated PG-13.
KUNDO: AGE OF THE RAMPANT (Well Go USA Entertainment): Director Yun Jong-bin’s historical action romp (originally titled Kundo: min-ran-eui sidae) is set during the fall of the Joseon Dynasty in the 19 th century Korea, as bandits steal from the rich and give to the poor, a la Robin Hood. In Korean with English subtitles. The DVD retails for $24.98; the Blu-ray for $29.98.
“LOW WINTER SUN”: THE COMPLETE SERIES (Anchor Bay Entertainment): All 10 episodes from the 2013 (and only) season of the AMC police drama starring Mark Strong and Lennie James as Detroit detectives whose murder of a fellow cop sends both spiraling into an odyssey of paranoia and betrayal, based on an award-winning 2006 British series in which Strong played the same character. The DVD collection retails for $49.98; the Blu-ray collection for $59.99.
“NYPD BLUE”: SEASON EIGHT (Shout! Factory): Dennis Franz (Emmy nominee as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series) and Rick Schroder roam the Big Apple’s mean streets in all 20 episodes from the 2000-01 season of the long running, award-winning ABC police drama created by Steven Bochco and David Milch. The DVD collection retails for $34.99.
“PENANCE” (Doppelganger Releasing): Kiyoshi Kurosawa adapted Kanae Minato’s novel Shokuzai (the original title) for this award-winning, five-part 2012 mini-series starring KyÃ´ko Koizumi as a grief-stricken mother who exacts retribution from four women who saw her daughter murdered 15 years before. In Japanese with English subtitles. The DVD retails for $29.95; the Blu-ray for $34.95.
POSEIDON REX (ITN Distribution): Brian Krause and Anne McDaniels are among the deep-sea divers who accidentally awaken a very large and very hungry reptile in director Mark L. Lester’s silly creature feature. Don’t be surprised if you start rooting for the monster.
THE PRETTY ONE (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Writer/executive producer/director JenÃ©e LaMarque’s feature debut stars Zoe Kazan in a dual role as twin sisters, one of whom assumes the other’s identity after a fatal car accident. This award-winning but awkward romantic comedy is aided by an appealing cast including Ron Livingston, Jake M.Johnson, Sabrina Lloyd and reliable John Carroll Lynch. Rated R. **
“RICHARD LEWIS: BUNDLE OF NERVES” (VSC): A two-DVD collection ($29.98 retail) showcasing the awardwinning actor and comedian, including his 1997 stand-up special Magical Misery Tour; the 1979 TV movie Diary of a Young Comic directed by “Saturday Night Live” veteran Gary Weis; the 1995 ensemble drama Drunks adapted by Gary Lennon from his play Blackout co-starring Faye Dunaway, Parker Posey, Dianne Wiest, Spalding Gray, Sam Rockwell, Amanda Plummer, Calista Flockhart and Howard E. Rollins Jr. (in his final film); and the “home movie” documentary House of a Lifetime in which he opens the doors of his abode.
ZODIAC: SIGNS OF THE APOCALYPSE (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Routine Syfy Channel disaster melodrama sees the end of the world is (again) nigh. Ben Cotton is fun as a goofball survivalist named Marty, while Christopher Lloyd trots out his eccentric-scientist shtick for the umpteenth time.
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