DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: BEST SELLER (Olive Films)
This crackerjack 1987 thriller, written by Larry Cohen and directed by John Flynn, was overlooked upon its theatrical release but remains a sharp, savvy winner.Brian Dennehy plays Dennis Meechum, a Los Angeles cop and best-selling author (think Joseph Wambaugh) approached by professional killer Cleve (James Woods) to write his memoirs. Both repulsed and intrigued, Dennis agrees – and soon enough he and Cleve are targeted by tycoon David Madlock (reliable Paul Shenar), whose empire was built in part by Cleve’s past “efforts” on his behalf.The two leads are terrific together — Dennehy’s simmering, slow-burning intensity perfectly balanced by Woods’ nervy magnetism. There’s nice work too from Victoria Tennant, George Coe, and Alison Balson (in her screen debut) as Dennis’ daughter, but it’s the Dennehy/Woods chemistry that really crackles.Best Seller is exciting, suspenseful, loaded with dark humor and worthy of rediscovery.The DVD retails for $19.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. Rated R.
1969 (Olive Films): It’s the “Age of Aquarius” for Robert Downey Jr. (skittish) and Kiefer Sutherland (sheepish) in Oscarwinning screenwriter Ernest Thompson’s misguided, unfocused 1988 drama. It’s all here: Vietnam, free love, drugs, hippies, nudists and rock ‘n’ roll – but it doesn’t add up, despite a cast including Bruce Dern, Mariette Hartley, an over-the-top Joanna Cassidy, and a luminous Winona Ryder. A box-office flop that helped bury independent studio Atlantic Releasing Corp., but the soundtrack’s good. The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. Rated R.
AALIYAH: THE PRINCESS OF R & B (LionsGate): Alexandra Shipp plays the ambitious songbird (born Aaliyah Dana Haughton), whose life was cut short by a tragic plane crash that ended her life at age 22, in this top-rated Lifetime TV movie. The DVD retails for $14.98.
ADUA AND HER FRIENDS (RaroVideo/Kino Lorber): Simone Signoret and Marcello Mastroianni star in Antonio Pietrangeli’s award-winning 1960 comedy/drama (originally titled Adua e la compagne and released in the US as Hungry for Love) focuses on four prostitutes in Rome who try to better their lot by opening a restaurant — but are unable to completely shake the past. In Italian with English subtitles. The Blu-ray retails for $29.95.
BREATHLESS (Shout! Factory): The Blu-ray bow ($19.93 retail) of Jim McBride’s sexy, flashy, ultimately empty remake of Godard’s 1960 classic, with Richard Gere as a thief on the lam with comely French co-ed Valerie Kaprisky. Rated R.
DON’T GO IN THE WOODS (Vinegar Syndrome): A re-release of a quintessential, low-budget 1981 slasher film in which hikers (including future casting director Mary Gail Artz, in her only acting role) fall prey to murderous mountain man Tom Drury (in his screen debut). Silly and repetitious, but never dull and amusingly cheesy. Remarkably banned in Britain as a “video nasty” although the gore effects are mostly laughable. The DVD/Blu-ray combo ($24.98 retail) boasts a myriad of special features, including multiple audio commentaries, retrospective interviews and more. Rated R.
DRAGONHEART 3: THE SORCERER’S CURSE (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): There’s swordplay and CGI aplenty in this middling medieval fantasy, the first sequel since 2000 to the 1996 theatrical film. Ben Kingsley provides the voice of the dragon who aids young knight Julian Morris. The DVD retails for $29.98, the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $34.98. Rated PG-13.
FOXCATCHER (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Director Bennett Miller’s compelling, haunting fact-based drama focuses on the intense, ultimately tragic relationship between millionaire and wrestling enthusiast John E. du Pont (Steve Carell) when he entices Olympic gold-medalist wrestling siblings Mark and Dave Shultz (Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo) to attend his state-of-the-art training facility Foxcatcher Farm in Pennsylvania. Superb performances all around, including Vanessa Redgrave, Sienna Miller and Anthony Michael Hall in support, this deservedly earned five Oscar nominations: Best Director, Best Actor (Carell), Best Supporting Actor (Ruffalo), Best Original Screenplay and Best Makeup and Hairstyling. One of 2014’s best films. The DVD retails for $30.99, the Blu-ray for $34.99. Rated R.
THE QUIET GUN (Olive Films): Forrest Tucker lays down the law in this 1957 Western, now available on DVD ($24.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail).
THE SCRIBBLER (XLRator Media): Katie Cassidy’s foxy, funky turn in the title role dominates screenwriter Dan Schaffer’s adaptation of his graphic novel, playing a woman with multiple personalities who undergoes experimental treatment. Arresting visuals, some interesting ideas, and elements of black comedy don’t quite add up, but cult possibilities are present and a star-studded cast includes Eliza Dushku, Garret Dillahunt, Michelle Trachtenberg, Gina Gershon, Sasha Grey, Michael Imperioli, Billy Campbell, Sasha Grey and Richard Riehle. Rated R.
“SILICON VALLEY”: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (HBO): Hi-tech hi-jinks abound in this acclaimed HBO comedy series set amid the cutthroat business of Silicon Valley, featuring an ensemble cast: Thomas Middleditch, Josh Brener, Martin Starr, Kumail Nanjiani, Zach Woods, Matt Ross and Amanda Crew. Five Emmy nominations including Outstanding Comedy Series, Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series and Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series. All eight episodes from the inaugural 2014 season, plus bonus features, are available on DVD ($29.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($39.98 retail).
THE SKIN (Cohen Media Group): A newly-remastered edition of Liliana Cavani’s award-winning 1981 adaptation of Curzio Malaparte’s novel La Pelle, which dramatizes the American occupation of Naples during World War II, starring Burt Lancaster, Marcello Mastroianni, Claudia Cardinale and Ken Marshall. In Italian with English subtitles. The DVD retails for $29.98, the Blu-ray for $39.98 – both containing special features.
SUPERNOVA (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): A Blu-ray re-release ($24.97 retail) of the seriously botched 2000 sci-fi extravaganza directed by the pseudonymous “Thomas Lee” after Walter Hill and Jack Sholder each took a crack at it, then was extensively re-editied by Francis Ford Coppola. James Spader, Angela Bassett, Lou Diamond Phillips, Robin Tunney, Peter Facinelli, Wilson Cruz and alwayswelcome Robert Forster round out a cast that tries hard … but for naught. Rated R.
UNBROKEN (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): Angelina Jolie directed this well-made and respectful, but curiously unmoving, adaptation of Laura Hillenbrand’s best-seller, detailing the life of Olympic athlete Louie Zamperini (Jack O’Connell), who later endured hardship as a prisoner of war in Japan during World War II. Nominated for three Oscars: Best Cinematography, Best Sound Editing, and Best Sound Mixing. The DVD retails for $29.98, the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $34.98. Rated PG-13.
“VEEP”: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON (HBO): Julia Louis-Dreyfus scored her third consecutive Emmy (Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series) as US vice-president Selina Meyer, now eying the presidency herself, in the critically acclaimed HBO comedy series created by Armando Iannucci, which earned nine Emmy nominations in all, including Outstanding Comedy Series, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series (Tony Hale), Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (Anna Chlumsky), Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series (Gary Cole) and Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series. All 10 episodes from the 2004 season are available on DVD ($29.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($39.98 retail). !
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2015, Mark Burger.