MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
DVD PICK OF THE WEEK
BONE TOMAHAWK (RLJ Entertainment): The Western may still be rather an endangered species, but first-time writer/director S. Craig Zahler’s award-winning saga gives the genre a hard-bitten and grisly jolt.
A nocturnal raid in a small frontier town compels local lawman Kurt Russell, gunslinger Matthew Fox, and deputies Patrick Wilson and Richard Jenkins to form a posse and go in pursuit. Their quarry is a tribe, not of hostile Native Americans, but cannibalistic troglodytes (don’t ask) â€“ and one of those abducted is the wife (Lili Simmons) of Wilson’s injured deputy.
Things get plenty bloody along the way, although at 128 minutes, this is on the long side. But the brutal action, generous dollops of black comedy, and first-rate cast (which also includes David Arquette, Kathryn Morris, Sean Young, Michael Pare, James Tolkan and Said Haig) all compensate nicely. Cult status is likely assured.
The DVD retails for $29.96, the Blu-ray for $29.97. Rated R. ***
AMY (LionsGate): Asif Kapadia’s in-depth, intimate, documentary traces the tragically short life of Grammy-winning crooner Amy Winehouse (1983-2011). Deservedly nominated for the Oscar as Best Feature Documentary, available on DVD ($19.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($24.99 retail). Rated R. ***Â½
COFFY (Olive Films): Pam Grier plays the title role in writer/director Jack Hill’s 1973 “blaxploitation” favorite, a nurse who single-handedly takes on the city’s crime syndicate when her sister is hooked on drugs. Lots of familiar folk on hand: Robert DoQui, Allan Arbus, Linda Haynes, Booker Bradshaw and Hill perennial Sid Haig. The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. Rated R. **Â½
CONDEMNED (RLJ Entertainment): Attractive Dylan Penn (daughter of Sean Penn and Robin Wright) makes her big-screen bow in this grimy, grisly black comedy about the denizens of a rundown Manhattan tenement infected with a toxic virus. Like a Troma movie with a bigger budget and a better cast (including Johnny Messner, Nick Damici and Jon Abrahams), but scarcely more entertaining. *
FOR ALL THE WRONG REASONS (Monarch Home Entertainment): Writer/producer/director Gia Milani’s award-winning debut feature follows various employees at at a big box department store whose lives intersect in unexpected ways. Longish at times but extremely well played by an ensemble cast including the late Cory Monteith (in his penultimate film), Karine Canasse, Emily Hampshire, Denis Theriault and Kevin Zegers. ***
THE GUARDIAN (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Exorcist director William Friedkin makes his return to horror with this oddball 1990 adaptation of Dan Greenberg’s novel, starring Carey Lowell and Dwier Brown as a couple whose infant son’s nanny (Jenny Seagrove) is not of this world. The new Blu-ray ($29.99 retail) includes retrospective interviews and more. Rated R. **
HELLIONS (IFC Midnight/Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Terrorized teen Chloe Rose battles evil forces on Halloween in this shocker, available on DVD ($14.93 retail) and Blu-ray ($22.97 retail).
“HELL ON WHEELS”: THE COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON (Entertainment One): The construction of the trans-continental Railroad forms the backdrop for AMC’s award-winning Western series starring Anson Mount as a Civil War veteran bent on avenging his wife’s murder by Union soldiers. All 13 episodes from the 2014 season (plus bonus features) are available on DVD ($39.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($49.98 retail).
THE INTERN (Warner Home Video): Writer/producer/director Nancy Meyers’ PG-13-rated comedy casts Robert De Niro in the title role, a 70-year-old widower who gains a new lease on life â€“ and a new friend â€“ when he interns for high-powered online-fashion doyenne Anne Hathaway, available on DVD ($28.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($35.99 retail).
THE LAST HORROR FILM (Troma): The special-edition Blu-ray ($24.95 retail) of the tacky but award-winning (!) 1982 black comedy/shocker (also released as Fanatic) that reunites the Maniac duo of Joe Spinell, as a deranged New York cabbie so obsessed with scream queen Caroline Munro that he follows her to Cannes. That’s Spinell’s real-life mother Mary as his nutty, pot-smoking mother. Writer/producer/director David Winters also plays the director of the film-within-the film. Some of the music was by Depeche Mode. It’s got its followers — *Â½
LEARNING TO DRIVE (Broad Green Pictures Home Entertainment): Expert performances by Patricia Clarkson, as a woman recently dumped by husband Jake Weber, and Ben Kingsley as the Indian Sikh cabbie who gives her driving lessons, keep this New York-set comedy/drama cruising along nicely. Rated R. ***
THE LEGEND OF THE LONE RANGER (Timeless Media Group): A ham-fisted, big-budget 1981 botch of the popular Western legend, which hastened the demise of Sir Lew Grade’s ITC Entertainment and, along with the previous year’s Heaven’s Gate, helped bury the genre. Klinton Spilsbury, in his one and only feature film, plays the title role (but was dubbed by James Keach), with Michael Horse (in his screen debut) as Tonto, Christopher Lloyd as baddie Butch Cavendish, and Jason Robards as jeopardized President Grant. The Blu-ray retails for $19.97. Rated PG. *
OF MICE AND MEN (Olive Films): Director Gary Sinise plays George and fellow Steppenwolf Theatre alum John Malkovich plays Lennie in this respectful 1992 adaptation of the John Steinbeck classic. The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. Rated PG-13. **Â½
OUR BRAND IS CRISIS (Warner Home Video): A presidential election in Bolivia is the setting for this R-rated political satire inspired by Rachel Boynton’s 2005 documentary, directed by UNCSA School of Filmmaking favorite David Gordon Green, shot by regular cinemtographer and fellow UNCSA graduate Tim Orr, and starring Sandra Bullock (also a producer), Billy Bob Thornton, Anthony Mackie, Zoe Kazan, Ann Dowd, Joaquim de Almeida and Scoot McNairy. The DVD retails for $28.98, the Blu-ray for $29.98.
PAINKILLERS (RLJ Entertainment): Surviving members of a military unit are subjected to psychological experiments after a mission gone wrong in Afghanistan, in this empty-headed, shrill sci-fi shocker starring Tehmoh Penikett, Erica Durance, Lesley-Ann Brandt and Colm Feore (typecast as a sinister scientist). *
PETER BENCHLEY’S CREATURE (Olive Films): The author of Jaws and The Island penned White Shark (1994), which provided the basis for this silly but engrossing 1998 ABC-TV mini-series about a top-secret government project gone (very) wrong, starring Craig T. Nelson, Kim Cattrall, Colm Feore and Giancarlo Esposito â€“ and look for Benchley in a cameo. Emmy nomination for Outstanding Sound Editing for a Mini-Series, Movie or Special. The DVD retails for $19.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. **Â½
SONNY BOY (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): The Blu-ray bow ($26.99 retail) of director Robert Martin Carroll’s jaw-dropping, completely bizarro crime drama/black comedy with Paul L. Smith as a small-town crime boss and top-billed David Carradine (in drag) as his wife, who “adopt” an orphan they call “Sonny Boy” (Michael Griffin in his screen debut). Things only get weirder from there. Brad Dourif, Sydney Lassick, Alexandra Powers and Conrad Janis also appear, and Carradine even croons the theme song. Filmed in 1987, this had trouble finding a distributor (I’ll bet), then got released ( just barely) in 1989, this is something of a cult classic. It’s certainly something else! **
“THE STORY OF WOMEN AND POWER” (RLJ Entertainment/Athena): Historian Andrea Vickery hosts this three-part BBC Two documentary mini-series tracing the suffragette movement in Britain, available on DVD ($34.99 retail).
“SYNAPSE WAR DOCUMENTARIES” (Synapse Films): The Blu-ray bow of two World War II documentaries: Leni Reifenstahl’s hugely controversial Triumph of the Will (1935), which represented Third Reich propaganda at its zenith; and Sebastian Dehnhardt, Christian Deick and Jorg Mullner’s award-winning 2003 mini-series Stalingrad, which examined both German and Russian perspectives in that fierce battle. Each Blu-ray (rife with bonus features) retails for $34.95.
UNCANNY (RLJ Entertainment): An intriguing, award-winning and low-key sci-fi/existential fable with Mark Webber as a reclusive scientist who has created David Clayton Rogers, an amazingly life-like android, and Lucy Griffiths as the reporter whose presence disrupts their relationship. Essentially a three-hander, with Rainn Wilson in a last-scene cameo. **Â½
WALT BEFORE MICKEY (Vision Films): Based on Timothy Susanin’s biography (and originally Dreamer), this syrupy, slow-moving melodrama follows the early years and struggles of Walt Disney (Thomas Ian Nicholas). Jon Heder plays brother Roy and Armando Gutierrez (also a screenwriter, producer and executive producer) plays colleague Ub Iwerks. Rated PG. *Â½
WAR PIGS (Cinedigm): Standard-issue, award-winning (!) World War II potboiler with Dolph Lundgren, Luke Goss and martial-arts champ Chuck Lidell leading a mission to destroy the Nazis’ top-secret V3 rocket. Mickey Rourke, clad in modern-day cowboy hat and shades, shows up briefly as a colonel. Rated R. *Â½
“WKRP IN CINCINNATI”: THE COMPLETE FINAL SEASON (Shout! Factory): A DVD collection ($26.99 retail) of all 22 episodes from the 1981-’82 season of the award-winning CBS sitcom starring Gary Sandy, Gordon Jump, Tim Reid, Loni Anderson, Richard Sanders, Jan Smithers, Frank Bonner and Howard Hesseman (as Dr. Johnny Fever). Nominated for two Emmy Awards including Outstanding Comedy Series.
(Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2016, Mark Burger) HYPERLINK “mailto:email@example.com”firstname.lastname@example.org