DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: VINCENT & THEO (Olive Films)
By 1990, some felt that filmmaker Robert Altman’s best years (and films) were behind him. Although he worked steadily through the ‘80s, none of his films achieved the success of M*A*S*H (1970) or Nashville (1975).Shortly before his roaring Hollywood comeback with the instant-classic show-biz satire The Player (1992), Altman helmed this biographical drama as a BBC mini-series, and then pared it down to feature length.The result is a powerful, incisive portrait of the relationship between painter Vincent van Gogh (Tim Roth) and his brother Theo (Paul Rhys). Vincent was a legend in his own time; Theo was an art dealer and Vincent’s stalwart supporter – perhaps the only person who truly understood Vincent, but whose efforts to save him (mostly from himself) were all for naught.Beautifully shot by Jean Lepine on actual locations where Vincent lived, and written with compassion and insight by Julian Mitchell, Vincent & Theo is a love story about two brothers whose shared passions and pain cost them dearly, yet also produced some of the great artwork the world has ever known. The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. Rated PG-13.
ALICE’S RESTAURANT (Olive Films): Arthur Penn scored an Oscar nomination as Best Director for this R-rated 1969 musical satire inspired by Arlo Guthrie’s 1967 song, with Guthrie playing “himself,” wandering through the late-’60s American landscape and encountering Pete Seeger, Pat Quinn, James Broderick, Lee Hays, M. Emmet Walsh and others along the way. The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95.
CONVICTS (Olive Films): Peter Masterson directed this little-seen 1991 adaptation of Horton Foote’s “Orphan Home” plays (scripted by the author), with Lukas Haas as a teen toiling on senile Civil War veteran Robert Duvall’s Texas plantation in 1902. James Earl Jones, Starletta DuPois and Carlin Glynn (Masterson’s wife) co-star. The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95.
DEBUG (Ketchup Entertainment): Shades of Stanley Kubrick (2001: A Space Odyssey) and Paul WS Anderson (Event Horizon) in actor-turned-writer/director David Hewlett’s sleek but talky sci-fi shocker pitting computer hackers (including Jeananne Goossen and Adam Butcher) against murderous artificial intelligence (personified by Jason Momoa) on a derelict spacecraft.
EAT DRINK MAN WOMAN (Olive Films): Future two-time Oscar winner Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain and Life of Pi) scored his first international success with this 1994 comedy/drama (originally titled Yin shi nan nu) about family tradition, with Sihung Lang as a widower with three unmarried daughters (Kuei-Mei Yang, Chien-lien Wu and Yu-Wen Wong), who congregate each Sunday for a banquet. Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Language Film. In Mandarin with English subtitles. The DVD retails for $19.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95.
EDITH WHARTON: THE SENSE OF HARMONY (IndiePix Films): Elizabeth Lennard’s documentary explores the life and career of literary legend Edith Wharton (1862-1937), who wrote such acclaimed novels as The Age of Innocence, The House of Mirth and Ethan Frome, and the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for fiction. The DVD retails for $14.95.
THE END OF VIOLENCE (Olive Films): Wim Wenders’ award-winning, R-rated 1997 meditation on violence and its effects also delves into the Hollywood milieu, with Bill Pullman as a producer whose life is forever changed when he survives a kidnapping. A box-office flop despite an all-star cast: Andie MacDowell, Gabriel Byrne, Frederic Forrest, Traci Lind, Loren Dean, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Daniel Benzali, Nicole Ari Parker, Rosalind Chao, K. Todd Freeman, Henry Silva, Peter Horton, Udo Kier and filmmaker Samuel Fuller (in his final appearance). The DVD retails for $19.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95.
FOCUS (Warner Home Video): The con is on for Will Smith and Margot Robbie in this glossy, glamorous, but ultimately shallow comedy/thriller written and directed by the Glenn Ficarra/John Requa duo. B.D. Wong’s brief appearance as a compulsive gambler who parries with Smith at the Super Bowl is a highlight. The DVD retails for $28.98, the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $44.95. Rated R.
“KING OF THE HILL” (Olive Films): The long-running, award-winning animated Fox comedy series created by Mike Judge and Greg Daniels focuses on the dysfunctional Hill family in the Texas suburb of Arlen, featuring the voices of Judge, Kathy Najimy, Pamela Segall Adlon, Johnny Hardwick, Stephen Root, Toby Huss and Brittany Murphy. “Season 9” contains all 15 episodes from the 2004-’05 season, “Season 10” all 15 from the 2005-’06 season. Each DVD collection retails for $34.95.
LITTLE MAN TATE (Olive Films): Jodie Foster made her directorial debutand stars in this well-acted 1991 melo drama as a single mother whose young son (Adam Hann-Byrd in his screen debut) boasts in IQ bordering on genius. Pure soap opera given heft by a cast including Dianne Wiest, David Hyde- Pierce, Celia Weston, Debi Mazar, George Plimpton and Harry Connick Jr. The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. Rated PG.
LOCKE (LionsGate): Tom Hardy’s the whole show in a tour-de-force turn as a troubled businessman, juggling phone calls and personal crises on a long drive on the M5 in London, in writer/director Steven Knight’s award-winning character study. Rated R.
“THE NEWSROOM”: THE COM- PLETE THIRD SEASON (HBO): The end of the line for Aaron Sorkin’s award-winning HBO drama series about cable news, boasting a star-studded cast including Jeff Daniels (Emmy nominee for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series), Emily Mortimer, Alison Pill, Olivia Munn, Dev Patel and Sam Waterston, with recurring appearances by Marcia Gay Harden, Chris Messina, David Harbour and Jane Fonda (Emmy nominee for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series). All six episodes from the 2014 (and final) season are available on DVD ($39.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($49.99 retail).
PSYCH-OUT (Olive Films): Director Richard Rush’s suitably trippy 1968 outing stars Susan Strasberg as a deaf-mute searching for her missing brother (Dean Stockwell) in San Francisco’s heady Haight-Ashbury district. Along the way, she encounters Jack Nicholson, Bruce Dern, Adam Roarke, Max Julien, Henry Jaglom, the Seeds, and the Strawberry Alarm Clock (performing “Incense & Peppermints”). Definitely a product of its time, but a fascinating artifact nonetheless. The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95.
RAGE (RLJ Entertainment/Image Entertainment): Generic title, generic movie. Nicolas Cage (sporting jet-black hair) plays a reformed criminal who goes into the title state when daughter Aubrey Peeples is abducted. Andrzej Sekula’s stylish cinematography keeps it watchable, as does the cast: Danny Glover, Rachel Nichols and Peter Stormare. Cage’s real-life son Weston plays his character in flashbacks. Originally titled Tokarev.
“RECTIFY”: THE COMPLETE SEC- OND SEASON (Anchor Bay Entertainment):A DVD collection ($29.98 retail) of all 10 episodes from the 2014 season of the Peabody Award-winning SundanceTV drama series created by executive producer Ray McKinnon, starring Aden Young as a man released from prison when DNA evidence casts doubt on his conviction for murdering his girlfriend two decades earlier.
WHITNEY (LionsGate): Angela Bassett makes her directorial debut with this Lifetime TV movie starring Yaya DaCosta as the late superstar Whitney Houston and Arlen Escarpeta as superstar husband Bobby Brown, with Deborah Cox providing DaCosta’s singing vocals. The DVD retails for $14.98. !
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2015, Mark Burger.