DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: JOHN DOE: VIGILANTE (Arc Entertainment)
Director Kelly Dolen delivers the stylish, flashy action the title implies, but he and co-writer Stephen M. Coates delve deeper to convey a surprisingly relevant and timely exploration of vigilante justice.
Jamie Bamber is terrific in the title role, a mysterious and masked avenger who metes out retribution not arbitrarily, but specifically targeting those who have avoided detection and prosecution. By broadcasting his actions, “John Doe” becomes an international media sensation. Yet the question stands: Is he folk hero or dangerous sociopath?
Although set in Melbourne, Australia, the events depicted could have been set in any big city. Lachy Hulme plays the reporter whose interrogation of an imprisoned John Doe brackets the story, and Sam Parsonson plays a zealously impassioned pro-vigilante activist. The film offers no easy answers, and despite one third-act twist too many, John Doe: Vigilante offers both ferocity and food for thought. An unexpected and intelligent surprise. Rated R.
(For an exclusive interview with actor Jamie Bamber, turn to Page 70)
BANK$TAS (Arc Entertainment): Reasonably likable, award-winning farce with Joe Dinicol and Michael Seater as college buddies who luck into jobs at a prestigious investment firm – only to learn they’re pawns in a student-loan scam. Alan Thicke, Laura Vandervoort, Grace Lynn Kung, Brandon Furla and Nicholas Campbell also star. Rated R.
ECHOES (Anchor Bay Entertainment):Writer/producer/director Nils Timm’s award-winning feature debut stars Kate French as a young writer prone to nightmarish visions whose desert getaway only makes them worse. Spooky and well-made, but few surprises.
FROM THE DARK (Dark Sky Films/ MPI Media Group): Conor McMahon’s atmospheric but repetitious shocker stars Niamh Algar and Stephen Cromwell as a couple whose weekend road-trip takes a bad turn when they encounter a monstrous being that thrives in darkness.
THE GAMBLER (Paramount): Mark Wahlberg produces and stars in this slick but shallow remake of the 1973 drama, as a college professor who can’t resist another roll of the dice, another turn of the cards, or another pretentious metaphor. John Goodman, Jessica Lange, Michael Kenneth Williams, George Kennedy and Brie Larson acquit themselves reasonably well under the circumstances. An interesting misfire. The DVD retails for $29.99, the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $39.99. Rated R.
“I LOVE LUCY: I LOVE MOM EDITION” (CBS DVD/Paramount): The title tells all in this commemorative Mother’s Day DVD collection ($14.99 retail) of four themed episodes from the immortal sitcom – replete with pop-up greeting card!
INNOCENCE (Cinedigm): Grief-stricken teen Sophie Curtis (lovely but glum) suspects her Manhattan preparatory school hides dark secrets in this sluggishl adaptation of producer Jane Mendelsohn’s best-seller. Like its lead character, the film is slow on the uptake, rousing belated interest only during the climax. Kelly Reilly plays the transparently evil school nurse, who immediately moves in on Curtis’ dim father (Linus Roache). Sarah Sutherland, Perrey Reeves and Sarita Choudhury also appear. Rated PG-13.
THE LIBERATOR (Cohen Media Group): Executive producer Efren Ramirez portrays the legendary Latin American freedom fighter Simon Bolivar in producer/director Alberto Arvelo’s R-rated historical drama (originally titled Libertador). In English and Spanish with English subtitles, now available on DVD ($24.98 retail) and Bluray ($34.98 retail).
“LO QUE LA VIDA ME ROBO” (Cinedigm): A four-DVD collection ($19.97 retail) of the 2013-’14 season of the popular, award-winning “Telenovela” (English title: “What Life Took From Me”), based on the ‘80s series “Bodas de odio,” starring Angelique Boyer as a beautiful young socialite determined to make her way in the world.
“THE MENTALIST”: THE COMPLETE SEVENTH AND FINAL SEASON (Warner Home Video): Simon Baker’s final goround as crafty criminologist Patrick Jane in all 13 episodes from the 2014-’15 season of the award-winning CBS mystery series, co-starring Robin Tunney, Tim Kang and Amanda Righetti. The three-DVD boxed set retails for $39.98.
“MENTIR PARA VIVIR” (Cinedigm): A four-DVD collection ($19.97 retail) of every episode from the inaugural 2013 season of the popular Spanish-language “telenovela” series broadcast on Univision, with Maryin Villaneuva as a woman who attempts to flee her past when her husband (Diego Olivera) is exposed as an international smuggler.
MOM’S DAY AWAY (Cinedigm): Housewife Bonnie Sommerville takes a break from husband James Tupper and kids Iain Belcher and Kaitlyn Bernard for a resort getaway with best friend Ona Grauer in this Hallmark Channel comedy, now available on DVD ($14.93 retail).
“THE RED ROAD”: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (Anchor Bay Entertainment): A DVD collection ($29.98 retail) of all six episodes (plus bonus features) from the inaugural 2014 season of the SundanceTV series partnering Martin Henderson’s sheriff with Jason Momoa’s Native American activist near the Ramapo Mountains bordering New Jersey and New York.
ROADSIDE (RLJ Entertainment/Image Entertainment): Writer/producer/director Eric England’s reasonably taut, fast-moving thriller stars producer Ace Marrero and Katie Stegeman as an expectant couple trapped on a lonely mountain road by an unseen gunman.
SELMA (Paramount Home Entertainment): David Oyelowo does a tremendous job humanizing the icon as Martin Luther King Jr. in Ava DuVernay’s respectful, engrossing dramatization of the circumstances leading up to the march across Alabama to support black voting rights in 1964, with a star-studded cast including Tom Wilkinson (as LBJ), Tim Roth (as
George Wallace), Carmen Ejogo, Oprah Winfrey, Giovanni Ribisi, Cuba Gooding Jr., Dylan Baker (as a rather lean J. Edgar Hoover), Wendell Pierce, Martin Sheen and Common, whose collaboration with John Legend yielded the Oscar-winning song “Glory.” The film, which also received an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, is available on DVD ($29.99 retail) or DVD/ Blu-ray combo ($39.99 retail). Rated PG- 13.
“SERANGOON ROAD” (RLJ Entertainment/Acorn): Australian expatriate Don Hany joins forces with detective neighbor Joan Chen after her husband is murdered in 1964 Singapore, in all 10 episodes from the 2013-’14 season of the award-winning Australia ABC/HBO Asia mystery series. The three-DVD collection retails for $49.99.
THAT MAN FROM RIO/UP TO HIS EARS (Cohen Film Group): Filmmaker Philippe de Broca and superstar Jean- Paul Belmondo teamed for a pair of James Bond spoofs: 1964’s That Man from Rio (L’Homme de Rio) earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay, and 1965’s Up to His Ears (Les Tribulations d’un Chinois en Chine) teamed Belmondo with the original Bond girl, Ursula Andress. In French with English subtitles. The DVD retails for $39.98, the Blu-ray for $49.98 — both boasting special features.
THE WEDDING RINGER (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Kevin Hart plays a “best-man-for-hire” who schools Josh Gad in wedding preparation in this splashy comedy that too often opts for raunchiness. Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting is the bride-to-be, with Ken Howard, Mimi Rogers, Affion Crockett, Cloris Leachman, Whitney Cummings and scene-stealer Olivia Thirlby joining the party. The DVD retails for $30.99, the Blu-ray for $34.99. Rated R.
WOLFCOP (RLJ Entertainment/Image Entertainment): Writer/director Lowell Dean’s blood-soaked horror send-up stars Leo Fafard as lazy small-town cop Lou Garou (get it?), the victim of a curse that turns him into the titular, toothy lawenforcement officer. A little shaky at first, but then hits its stride, with nice work from Sarah Lind and Amy Matysio as the ladies in Lou’s life. A sequel is due next year. !
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2015, Mark Burger.