DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: STREET SMART (Olive Films)
In order to make Superman IV, Christopher Reeve persuaded the Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus at Cannon Films to produce this 1987 urban drama, which turned out to be one of the better Golan/Globus films (but not a hit) – and brought Morgan Freeman his first Oscar nomination, as Best Supporting Actor.
Reeve plays Jonathan Fisher, a magazine reporter whose articles about New York’s seamy underbelly become the talk of the town. There’s just one problem: He made it all up. Even more problematic is that Jonathan has written vividly about a ruthless street pimp who bears a striking resemblance to Fast Black (Freeman), an actual pimp and murder suspect.
Jonathan is drawn into Fast Black’s circle – and to Punchy (Kathy Baker), one of his prostitutes – which throws his life into turmoil, as this cautionary tale about journalistic ethics plays out in engrossing fashion under Jerry Schatzberg’s direction.
With well-drawn, credible characters and situations, Street Smart lives up to its title.
A fine cast includes Mimi Rogers (as Jonathan’s girlfriend), Jay Patterson and Andre Gregory, but it’s Baker who brings the pathos and Freeman the fury. The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. Rated R.
THE ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN FABIAN (Olive Films): Errol Flynn swings into action as the title character – and first-time screenwriter! – of this swashbuckling 1951 adventure set in 1860s New Orleans, available on DVD ($24.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail).
ALL AMERICAN BULLY (Wild Eye Releasing): Teens Alexander Fraser (his feature debut), Alicia Rose and Darren Hicks contend with class bully Daren Ackerman in writer/producer/director Jason Hawkins’ well-intentioned but overly melodramatic, heavy-handed treatise, filmed in 2011 as The Innocent. Adrienne King, fondly remembered from the original Friday the 13 th (1980), plays the uptight high-school principal who clashes with compassionate teacher Patrick Ford (his screen debut).
ALLAN QUARTERMAIN AND THE LOST CITY OF GOLD (Olive Films): Richard Chamberlain reprises his title role in this 1987 sequel to King Solomon’s Mines (1985) – both filmed back-to-back by the inimitable Golan/Globus duo at Cannon, with Sharon Stone back as Quartermain’s fiancee, Henry Silva (in a fright wig) and Cassandra Peterson (eschewing the “Elvira” persona) as villains, Robert Donner as a comic-relief con-man, and James Earl Jones (dignity intact) as an ax-wielding African warrior called Umslopogaas. Chamberlain’s real-life partner, Martin Rabbett, plays Quartermain’s brother. Silly and campy – just like its predecessor. The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. Rated PG.
“ANNIKA BENGTZON: CRIME REPORTER” (MHz Networks): Helena Bergstrom stars as the title character in a pair of feature-length mysteries based on Liza Marklund’s best-selling novels, both directed by Colin Nutley: Paradise (2003) and 2001’s Deadline (also known as The Bomber). In Swedish with English subtitles. The two-DVD collection retails for $29.95.
THE BEAT GENERATION (Olive Films): Volatile cop Steve Cochran hunts serial rapist Ray Danton in 1959 in this melodrama set against the backdrop of the “beatnik” scene, scripted by Richard Matheson and Lewis Meltzer and produced by Albert Zugsmith, who specialized in low-budget films billed as being “ripped from today’s headlines!” Also on hand: Mamie Van Doren and then-husband Ray Anthony, Vampira (Maila Nurmi), Jackie Coogan, Fay Spain, Louis Armstrong, Charles Chaplin Jr., “Slapsie Maxie” Rosenbloom, Norm “Woo-Woo” Grabowski and Dick Contino. The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95.
“THE BROKENWOOD MYSTER- IES”: SERIES 1 (RLJ Entertainment/ Acorn): Neill Rea plays a veteran, maverick detective paired with eager female partner Fern Sutherland as they investigate crimes in a small New Zealand town in this mystery series that has found an immediate international following. The four-DVD collection ($59.99 retail) includes all four feature-length episodes from the inaugural 2014 season.
CHAPPIE (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Echoes of Short Circuit (1986) and RoboCop (1987) abound in Neill Blomkamp’s derivative futuristic blow-out about a police robot (voiced by long-time Blomkamp collaborator Sharlto Copley) that develops artificial intelligence. The special effects are more interesting than the human characters, including Dev Patel as Chappie’s creator, Sigourney Weaver as a robotics mogul, and a bearded Hugh Jackman as the heavy. The DVD retails for $30.99, the DVD/Blu-ray for $34.99. Rated R.
CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA (Paramount): Olivier Assayas’ witty, observant, award-winning character study stars Juliette Binoche (luminous) as an actress revisiting the stage play that launched her career, this time with bratty American star Chloe Grace Moretz (firstrate) in the role she originally played. Reminiscent in tone of last year’s Oscarwinning Birdman, with surreal touches throughout, while Kristen Stewart (very good) copped France’s Cesar Award for Best Supporting Actress as Binoche’s assistant. Rated R.
CRIMINAL LAW (Olive Films): Hotshot Boston attorney Gary Oldman (very intense) realizes wealthy client Kevin Bacon (very good) is a serial killer in this overly-stylized and overheated, but award-winning, 1988 courtroom thriller. Tess Harper and Joe Don Baker coolly steal the show as cynical cops. The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. Rated R.
“DEBBIE MACOMBER’S CEDAR COVE”: SEASON TWO (Cinedigm): Andie MacDowell returns in all 12 episodes from the 2014 season of the Hallmark Channel original series based on Macomber’s best-selling novels, available on DVD ($19.97 retail).
ERIK THE VIKING (Olive Films): “Monty Python” veteran Terry Jones wrote and directed this muddled 1989 medieval misfire with Tim Robbins in the title role, with all-star support from John Cleese, Mickey Rooney, Eartha Kitt, Antony Sher, Jim Broadbent, Imogen Stubbs and Jones himself. One of the many ‘80s/’90s box-office flops that eventually felled Orion Pictures. The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. Rated PG-13.
EXTREMITIES (Olive Films): Farrah Fawcett and James Russo reprise their stage roles in director Robert M. Young’s 1986 adaptation of William Mastrosimone’s award-winning play (scripted by the author), in which a woman turns the tables on a would-be rapist by imprisoning him in her home. This never quite transcends its stage origins but remains powerful and hard-hitting, with fine performances, including Diana Scarwid and Alfre Woodard as Fawcett’s roommates. The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. Rated R.
FLED (Olive Films): A light-hearted, action-oriented, (inevitably) inferior 1996 riff on The Defiant Ones (1958), with Laurence Fishburne and Stephen Baldwin as convicts chained together who make their escape. Will Patton steals it as a canny cop on their trail. Rated R.
FOR THE EMPEROR (Well Go USA Entertainment): Director Park Sangjun’s Korean-language thriller (originally titled Hwangjereul Wihayeo) stars Lee Min-ki as a disgraced ex-baseball star who drifts into crime, now available on DVD ($24.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.98 retail).
GET HARD (Warner Home Video): Will Ferrell (also a producer) and Kevin Hart wring what laughs they can from screenwriter Etan Cohen’s flimsy directorial debut, playing an indicted broker and the streetwise car-washer he hires to help prepare him for prison. A few inspired bits but not enough. The DVD retails for $28.98, the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $35.99. Rated R.
SKI SCHOOL (Olive Films): Fun on the slopes with Dean Cameron, Tom Breznahan and Playboy Playmate Ava Fabian in writer/director Damian Lee’s R-rated comedy, available on DVD ($24.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail). !
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2015, Mark Burger.