DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: HENRY V (Shout! Factory)
Kenneth Branagh scored a rousing triumph with his brilliant 1989 rendition of the William Shakespeare classic and earned the rare feat of Oscar nominations as Best Actor and Best Director for his first film. (Phyllis Dalton took home the Oscar for Best Costume Design.)Unlike Laurence Olivier’s 1944 version, which resounded with an appropriate “call-to-arms” rhythm reflective of World War II, the tone of Branagh’s version is more pensive and contemplative — yet no less powerful as a result, as it dramatizes the rise to power of the title character and his fateful decision to wage war on France.This is both a first-rate adaptation and a fascinating interpretation. Surrounding Branagh is a stellar line-up: Emma Thompson (then married to Branagh), Paul Scofield (as Charles VI of France), Judi Dench, Ian Holm, Alec McCowen, Robbie Coltrane and young Christian Bale. Derek Jacobi supplies on-screen narration as the Chorus — a theatrical device that works remarkably well here.The new Blu-ray retails for $24.97. Rated PG-13.
AMAZING GRACE (Olive Films): Before Madea, there was Moms Mabley, the North Carolina-born comedienne — and a little of Moms goes a long way in this broad, sitcom-style 1974 comedy that marked her only starring role, in which she tackles political corruption in Baltimore, backed by Moses Gunn, Rosalind Cash, Slappy White, Butterfly McQueen, James Karen, Dolph Sweet and Stepin Fetchit. The DVD retails for $24.95; the Blu-ray for $29.95. Rated G.
AMERICAN PROMISE (Cinedigm): An award-winning PBS documentary in which filmmakers Joe Brewster and Michele Stephenson examine the educational opportunities for black students as they spend 13 years filming their son Idris and his friend Seun through their formative schooling years. The DVD retails for $29.95
“THE BIG HOUSE”: THE COMPLETE SERIES (Olive Films): A DVD collection ($29.95 retail) of all six episodes from the 2004 (and only) season of the ABC sitcom, an early break for Kevin Hart, playing a displaced, spoiled rich kid from Malibu sent to live with his blue-collar Philadelphia relatives.
DEAR WHITE PEOPLE (LionsGate): Writer/director Justin Simien satirizes race relations in his R-rated, semi-autobiographical, award-winning debut feature, focusing on a group of black students seeking identity at a predominantly white university. The DVD retails for $19.98; the Blu-ray for $24.99.
FINDING FELA! (Kino Lorber): Alex Gibney’s award-winning documentary examines the life, music and legacy of Nigerian singer and social activist Fela Kuti (1938-1997), whose political stance was frequently at odds with his nation’s government. The DVD retails for $29.95; the Blu-ray for $34.95.
THE GOOD LIE (Warner Home Video): The efforts of the real-life Sudanese refugees known as “the Lost Boys” to acclimate to life in the United States is depicted in director Philippe Falardeau’s PG-13-rated drama top-lining Reese Witherspoon as an employment counselor who takes up their cause. Real-life Sudanese refugees Arnold Oceng and Kuoth Wiel (in his screen debut) and real-life “Lost Boys” Ger Duany and hip-hop star Emmanuel Jal co-star. The DVD/Blu-ray combo retails for $35.99.
“HOUSE OF LIES”: THE THIRD SEA- SON (Showtime Entertainment/CBS DVD/ Paramount): Don Cheadle and Kristen Bell are up to their old tricks — and some new ones — in all 12 episodes from the 2014 season of the award-winning Showtime series created by Matthew Carnahan and based on Martin Kihn’s best-seller about corporate America. The regular cast includes Ben Schwartz, Josh Lawson, Dawn Olivieri and Glynn Turman. Guest stars include Griffin Dunne, Mekhi Phifer, Daniel Stern, John Carroll Lynch, Fred Armisen and Jenny Slate. The two-DVD collection retails for $29.99.
JEAN DE FLORETTE/MANON OF THE SPRING (Shout! Factory): A Blu-ray double feature ($34.99 retail) of filmmaker Claude Berri’s award-winning, PG-rated, back-to-back 1986 adaptations of Marcel Pagnol’s epic two-part novel, depicting greed and retribution in the French province of Provence in the years following World War I. The first film stars Gerard Depardieu and real-life wife Elisabeth, Yves Montand and Daniel Auteuil, the second (originally titled Manon des Sources) sees Montand and Auteuil reprise their roles, joined by Emmanuelle Béart (who later married and divorced Auteuil in real life). In French with English subtitles.
LUCY (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): Scarlett Johansson (in the title role) is dosed with a drug that gives her super-powers then goes on a rampage in Luc Besson’s flashy but empty-headed thriller. Morgan Freeman, as is his wont, is the font of exposition as a scientist who explains all. The DVD retails for $29.98; the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $34.98. Rated R.
“MADE IN CARTAGENA, PARTE 2” (Cinedigm): A six-DVD collection ($24.97 retail) of all 27 episodes from the 2013 season of the Spanish-language adventure series set in the steamy, suspenseful environs of Colombia. The regular cast includes Carmen Villalobos, Miguel de Miguel, Fernando Solórzano, Khris Cifuentes and Tatiana De los Rios.
MEMPHIS (Kino Lorber): Writer/director Tim Sutton’s musical drama follows real-life blues musician Willis Earl Beal, playing a musician seeking insight and inspiration in the town of the title. The DVD retails for $24.95; the Blu-ray for $29.95. Both include special features.
MY GAL SUNDAY (Cinedigm): From the prolific pen of Mary Higgins Clark comes this top-rated Hallmark Movie Channel mystery with Rachel Blanchard and Cameron Mathison as newlywed sleuths. The DVD retails for $14.93.
RISE UP BLACK MAN (KJ Productions): Writer/director Kendall Irvin and producer Jenna McKee’s debut feature focuses on best friends (Victor Muse and Prince Duren) coming to terms with their future after graduating college together. The DVD retails for $14.95.
“SECRET AGENT”: THE COMPLETE SERIES (Timeless Media Group): A 17- DVD boxed set ($79.97 retail) of all 86 episodes, plus bonus features, from the entire run (1960-62, 1964-68) of the BBC espionage series created by Ralph Smart, which boosted Patrick McGoohan to international stardom as globe-trotting NATO operative John Drake. Originally titled Danger Man, the US retitling by CBS yielded the chart-topping Johnny Rivers hit (which McGoohan reportedly disliked). Many believe McGoohan’s subsequent series “The Prisoner” was the spin-off — and they might be right.
TYLER PERRY’S MADEA’S TOUGH LOVE (LionsGate): Filmmaking impresario Tyler Perry brings his signature character of Madea back – this time in cartoon form – in this full-length, PGrated animated comedy with the voices of Cassi Davis, Rolonda Watts, Cree Summer, “Bootsy” Collins and of course Perry as Madea and Uncle Joe. The DVD retails for $19.98.
YOUNG AT HEART (Olive Films): Frank Sinatra and Doris Day topline this 1954 remake of the ’30s melodrama Four Daughters about the romantic travails of three daughters (Day, Dorothy Malone and Elisabeth Fraser) of a famous Philadelphia musician (Robert Keith). Gig Young, Ethel Barrymore, pre-”Gilligan’s Island” Alan Hale and Lonny Chapman (in his screen debut) also star. Director Gordon Douglas would make four more films with Sinatra. Some light moments but pure soap opera, with songs by Cole Porter, George and Ira Gershwin, Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer. Reportedly, this film was untitled until the tune (unforgettably sung by Frank) hit the charts. The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. !
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2015, Mark Burger.