DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: THE PACKAGE (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
Remember “glasnost” and “perestroika”? The end of the Soviet Union yielded numerous post- Cold War thrillers, this solidly crafted 1989 Gene Hackman vehicle among the first.
Veteran Army sergeant Hackman escorts military prisoner Tommy Lee Jones (at his steely, sinister best) – the titular “Package” – stateside, but Jones escapes and Hackman is thrust into a treacherous web that reaches the top echelons of military power – on both sides.
With a Soviet/US nuclear disarmament treaty in the offing, a conspiracy has been set in motion – one that will plunge the two super-powers back into the Cold War. To stop the ultimate conspiracy requires the ultimate actor – and Hackman is it. He’s tough, intelligent and sympathetic, the ideal everyman hero the actor played so well – and he makes it look easy. (Despite entreaties, Hackman retired from acting in 2004 … and movies just aren’t the same without him.)
Director Andrew Davis makes great use of locations in his Chicago hometown, as he did previously in Code of Silence (1985) and later in The Fugitive (1993), and the supporting cast adds a lot of personality: Joanna Cassidy (as Hackman’s ex-wife), Dennis Franz, John Heard and Pam Grier.
The DVD retails for $19.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. Both contain interviews with and audio commentary by Davis and Cassidy, plus theatrical trailer. Rated R.
BEHIND ENEMY LINES (Olive Films): Ex-Marine Thomas Ian Griffith returns to Vietnam to rescue best friend Chris Mulkey in this R-rated 1997 action blow-out, now available on DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail).
BLOOD RED (Olive Films): Director Peter Masterson’s R-rated 1989 action melodrama (filmed in 1986) pits a Sicilian wine-making family (headed by Giancarlo Giannini) against railroad tycoon Dennis Hopper in 1890s’ Napa Valley. Eric Roberts plays Giannini’s vengeful son and sister Julia Roberts appears briefly as his sister in an early role. Burt Young, Michael Madsen, Susan Anspach, Elias Koteas, Also Ray, Marc Lawrence and Masterson’s real-life wife Carlin Glynn also appear. The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95.
CHATTAHOOCHEE (Olive Films): Director Mick Jackson’s well-meaning, fact-based 1988 melodrama stars Gary Oldman as an emotionally troubled Korean War veteran incarcerated in the titular Florida asylum, where patients are often subjected to inhumane treatment. The message overwhelms the movie, despite a top cast including Dennis Hopper, Frances McDormand, Pamela Reed, M. Emmet Walsh and Ned Beatty. The DVD retails for $19.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. Rated R.
“CHEERS”: THE COMPLETE SERIES (CBS DVD/Paramount): A big DVD boxed set ($117.99 retail) of all 270 episodes – plus bonus features – from the entire 1982-’93 run of the muchacclaimed, Emmy-winning NBC comedy series set in the Boston bar “where everybody knows your name.”
CONCERNING VIOLENCE (Kino Lorber): Lauryn Hill narrates writer/director Goran Hugo Olsson’s award-winning documentary detailing Third World liberation movements from the 1970s to the present day, inspired by Frantz Fanon’s 1961 book The Wretched of the Earth and utilizing authentic (and extensive) footage. In English, French, Portuguese and Swedish with English subtitles. The DVD retails for $29.95.
THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE (The Criterion Collection): The specialedition Blu-ray bow ($39.95 retail) of Peter Yates’ excellent 1973 adaptation of George V. Higgins’ best-seller, with Robert Mitchum in the title role of a broken-down ex-con attempting to navigate the treacherous Boston underworld. Brutal, cynical and, in its own way, heartbreaking. This was a box-office bust in its theatrical release but its reputation has deservedly grown over the years. Peter Boyle, Richard Jordan, Steven Keats, Alex Rocco, Joe Santos and Mitchell Ryan round out a fine cast. Special features include audio commentary and more. Rated R.
“THE FUGITIVE”: THE COMPLETE SERIES (CBS DVD/Paramount): David Janssen’s on the run as Dr. Richard Kimble, wrongly accused of murdering his wife and pursuing the “one-armed man” (Bill Raisch) who did the deed – while himself being pursued by Inspector Gerard (Barry Morse), in all 120 episodes from the entire 1963-’67 run of the popular ABC drama series, for which Janssen earned three Emmy nominations and a Golden Globe award. The DVD boxed set retails for $79.99.
INHERENT VICE (Warner Home Video): In another fearless performance, Joaquin Phoenix shambles through early ‘70s Los Angeles as perennially stoned shamus Doc Sportello in Paul Thomas Anderson’s engaging adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s novel, backed by a stellar cast including Josh Brolin, Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Benicio Del Toro, Martin Short, Jenna Malone, Maya Rudolph, Eric Roberts, Martin Donovan, Katherine Waterston and musician Joanna Newsom (in her screen debut). The film’s heady buzz dissipates in a protracted second half but manages to hold together. Two Oscar nominations: Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Costume Design. The DVD retails for $28.98, the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $35.99. Rated R.
“JESS FRANCO LIMITED EDI- TIONS” (Severin Films): A pair of cult classics from indefatigable – some might say abominable – cult auteur Jess Franco (1930-2013), both fully restorted, laden with special features for the Franco faithful and showcasing Spanish siren Soledad Miranda: Vampyros Lesbos (1970) and its follow-up She Killed in Ecstasy (also ‘70). Each DVD retails for $24.95, each Blu-ray (which includes an audio CD) for $34.95.
“STAR TREK – THE ORIGINAL SERIES: CAPTAIN KIRK’S BOLDEST MISSIONS” (CBS DVD/Paramount): A self-explanatory DVD collection ($16.99 retail) of eight episodes from the original NBC series “Star Trek” with William Shatner’s James T. Kirk in full command, including such favorites as Space Seed, which introduced Ricardo Montalban as Khan, and the award-winning The City on the Edge of Forever.”
STIGMATA (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): The special-edition Blu-ray ($24.97 retail) of a shrill, silly 1999 shocker that sees Patricia Arquette plagued by Satanic panic when stricken with the titular condition. Gabriel Byrne plays a priest who helps and Jonathan Pryce a corrupt cardinal who hinders, both adding a touch of misplaced class amidst the crass. Rated R.
TROOP BEVERLY HILLS (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): One of Shelley Long’s failed post-“Cheers” bids for big-screen stardom came with this flimsy, flunky 1989 scouting spoof, now available on Blu-ray ($19.99 retail). Look for Carla Gugino, Kellie Martin and Tori Spelling in early roles. Rated PG. *
“WALKER, TEXAS RANGER: FLASHBACK” (CBS DVD/Paramount): Chuck Norris lays down the law in this two-part episode from the 1994-’95 season of the long-running CBS action series, now available on DVD ($14.99 retail).
WATCHERS OF THE SKY (Music Box Films Home Entertainment): Edet Belzberg’s award-winning documentary profiles humanitarian activists Samantha Power, Ben Ferencz, Luis Moreno- Ocampo and Emmanual Uwurukundo as they promote peace around the world, inspired by Raphael Lemkin, who lobbied the United Nations to establish the Genocide Convention, and Power’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book A Problem from Hell. The DVD retails for $29.95
“THE WILD WILD WEST”: THE COMPLETE SERIES (CBS DVD/Paramount): A self-explanatory DVD collection ($79.99 retail) of all 104 episodes from the entire 1965-’69 run of the popular CBS action series starring Robert Conrad and Ross Martin as intrepid Secret Service agents battling the forces of evil in the years after the Civil War. !
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2015, Mark Burger.