DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: STATE OF SIEGE (Criterion Collection)
Acclaimed filmmaker Costa-Gavras’ award-winning, highly controversial and incendiary 1972 indictment of foreign – specifically US — involvement in Latin American politics was inspired by the kidnapping and execution of an American operative in Uruguay, and also prefigured the CIAsanctioned coup in Chile.
Set, ironically and appropriately, in Uruguay, the film (originally titled Etat de siege) adopts a visceral, docudrama approach, with Yves Montand (at his weary best) as an American agent held captive by left-wing revolutionaries. While the authorities slowly and methodically close in, Montand engages in a fascinating discourse on politics and morality while being interrogated by his captors, as a mounting sense of cynicism begins to shade the proceedings.
By examining still-relevant issues in a dramatic context and powered by Costa-Gavras’ persuasive direction, State of Siege remains as thought-provoking as when it was made.
The DVD retails for $29.95, the Blu-ray for $39.95. In French with English subtitles.
THE 100-YEAR-OLD MAN WHO CLIMBED OUT THE WINDOW AND DISAPPEARED (Music Box Films Home Entertainment): Felix Herngren’s awardwinning adaptation of Jonas Jonasson’s international best-seller stars Robert Gustafsson (first-rate) in the title role, who embarks on a journey that escalates into delirious, delicious, totally absurdist territory – which turns out to be indicative of how his entire life has gone. The DVD retails for $29.95, the Blu-ray for $34.95. In English and Swedish with English subtitles. Rated R.
BROKEN HORSES (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Filmmaker Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s English-language debut is a weird, stylized, neo-Western/noir remake of his 1989 Hindi film Parinda with brothers Anton Yelchin and Chris Marquette enmeshed in trouble in a small border town run by crime boss Vincent D’Onofrio. Tom Stern’s cinematography is excellent. Rated R.
COMET (IFC Films): Executive producers Justin Long and Emmy Rossum star in writer/director Sam Esmail’s “cosmic” romantic comedy/drama as lovers whose relationship plays out over six years – in various parallel universes. Rated R.
DANIEL (Olive Films): Sidney Lumet’s sincere but overwrought 1983 adaptation of E.L. Doctorow’s best-seller The Book of Daniel (scripted by the author) is loosely based on the case of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, starring Timothy Hutton as an idealistic firebrand determined to clear the names of his parents (Mandy Patinkin and Lindsay Crouse), executed years before as Soviet spies. A fine cast helps: Edward Asner, Amanda Plummer, Ellen Barkin, Tovah Feldshuh, Daniel Stern and Carmen Mathews. Lumet and Doctorow were also executive producers. The DVD retails for $19.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. Rated R.
ECHOES OF WAR (Arc Entertainment): Problematic pacing hampers producer/director/co-writer Kane Sense’s picturesque Western depicting a proverbial family feud in post-Civil War Texas, with James Badge Dale, Ethan Embry, Maika Monroe and grizzled William Forsythe in the line of fire. Rated R.
THE ENCORE OF TONY DURAN (Cinedigm): Likably played, award-winning character study about a (bad) day in the life of has-been crooner (co-producer/story writer Gene Pietragallo). Elliott Gould, William Katt, Cody Kasch, Nikki Ziering and screenwriter Mitchell Cohen round out the cast.
FLAWLESS (Olive Films): Director Joel Schumacher’s 1999 comedy/drama about the friendship that develops between grumpy ex-cop Robert De Niro and dragqueen neighbor Philip Seymour Hoffman (in an award-winning performance) after the former suffers a stroke. A nice try that doesn’t come off. The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. Rated R.
HAPPY VALLEY (Music Box Films Home Entertainment): Amir Bar-Lev’s powerful, award-winning documentary features offers a thorough overview of the Penn State sex scandal involving football coach Jerry Sandusky, as well as its widespread (and ongoing) impact. A depressing but important film.
MATCH (IFC Films): Legendary ballet teacher Patrick Stewart is interviewed by Matthew Lillard and Carla Gugino – who have an ulterior motive – in this shrill, unlikable adaptation of Stephen Belber’s 2004 play adapted and directed by the playwright. Rated R.
“NAKED AND AFRAID”: SEASON 1 (Cinedigm): Two strangers are left for 21 days without food, water or (obviously) clothes, in all seven episodes from the inaugural 2013 season of the Discovery Channel reality series, available on DVD ($29.93 retail).
PIT STOP (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): Cult auteur Jack Hill’s 1969 drive-in favorite about hot-rodders stars Brian Donlevy (in his final film), Hill perennial Sid Haig, Richard Davalos, Beverly Washburn and Ellen Burstyn (billed as Ellen McRae) in an early screen role, now available in a director-approved DVD/ Blu-ray combo ($29.95 retail) replete with special features including audio commentary and retrospective interviews.
REDEEMER (Dark Sky Films/MPI Home Video): Marko Zaror metes old Old Testament-style justice as a Bible-quoting vigilante in Ernesto Diaz Espinoza’s awardwinning action thriller, available on DVD ($24.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.98 retail).
“THE RED ROAD”: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON (Anchor Bay Entertainment): A two-DVD collection ($29.98 retail) of all six episodes from the 2015 season of the SundanceTV series set in the Ramapo Mountains bordering New Jersey and New York, where a Native American tribe has been granted permission to build a casino. The ensemble cast includes Martin Henderson, Jason Momoa, Julianne Nicholson, Tom Sizemore, Lisa Bonet and Wes Studi.
THE RETRIEVAL (Kino Lorber): Writer/ director Chris Eska’s award-winning Civil War drama stars Ashton Sanders (in his screen debut) as a youngster who joins bounty hunters who track runaway slaves, and Tishuan Scott as a free slave with a price on his head. The DVD retails for $29.95, the Blu-ray for $34.95.
THE ROAD WITHIN (Well Go USA Entertainment): Writer/director Gren Wells’ award-winning, R-rated comedy/drama stars Robert Sheehan as a Tourette’s Syndrome sufferer embarks on a cross-country road trip after fleeing a clinic with fellow patients Zoe Kravitz and Dev Patel. The DVD retails for $24.98, the Blu-ray for $29.98.
VENGEANCE OF AN ASSASSIN (Well Go US A Entertainment): Director/fight choreographer Panna Rittikrai reunites with Born to Fight star Dan Chupong for this martial-arts thriller (originally titled Reu thalu rew) about an assassin tracking his parents’ killers. In Thai with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.98 retail).
WHITE GOD (Magnolia Home Entertainment): Kornel Mundruczo’s awardwinning modern-day parable (originally titled Feher isten) offers a unique dramatization of the plight of the disenfranchised, as “portrayed” by an ever-expanding pack of dogs at large in the streets of Hungary. Young Zsofia Psotta makes her screen debut as a girl seeking her dog Hagen, who has become one of the pack. The climactic riot sequences are impressive and intense. In Hungarian with English subtitles. The DVD retails for $26.98, the Blu-ray for $29.98. Rated R.
WHITE RABBIT (Breaking Glass Pictures): Nick Krause headlines this topical, award-winning drama as a bullied teen, haunted by a boyhood memory of shooting a rabbit, descending into madness that culminates, inevitably, in a Columbinetype school shooting. A perceptive feel for adolescent alienation and Alan McIntyre Smith’s cinematography stand out.
WHO KILLED ALEX SPOURDALA- KIS? (TDC Entertainment): Aidan Quinn narrates writer/director Andy Wakefield’s haunting, award-winning documentary that delves into the circumstances surrounding the death of an autistic Chicago teen whose condition may have been misdiagnosed and his treatment wrongly prescribed. Some questions remain unanswered, however …
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2015, Mark Burger.