MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
DVD PICK OF THE WEEK
THE TRIP (Olive Films): Working from a script written by none other than Jack Nicholson, producer/director Roger Corman delves into the drug culture of the swingin’ ’60s with this entertaining, effective 1967 drama that was clearly made for the drive-in trade but more thoughtful than one might think.
Peter Fonda plays Paul, a TV director disillusioned by his divorce (from Susan Strasberg) and at loose ends in his career. What to do but take LSD? Guided by drug guru John (a restrained and sympathetic Bruce Dern), Paul embarks on his psychedelic trip, experiencing all sorts of bizarre visions â€“ some of which seem inspired by Corman’s Poe films â€“ and seeing the world in a new, sometimes frightening, sometimes enlightening, perspective.
Fast-moving and colorful, The Trip isn’t without campy moments, including Dennis Hopper’s memorable turn as a very happy hippie named Max. Corman’s home studio, American International, re-edited the film to make it a heavy-handed warning about drug use â€“ much against the filmmaker’s wishes. This version is more true to Corman’s original vision.
The DVD retails for $14.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. ***
THE BIG SHORT (Paramount): Director Adam McKay’s well-acted ensemble comedy, adapted from Michael Lewis’ non-fiction best-seller, dramatizes (in satirical fashion) the circumstances leading up to the 2007-’08 financial meltdown. A fine cast includes Christian Bale (Oscar nominee for Best Supporting Actor), Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Melissa Leo, Marisa Tomei and producer Brad Pitt, although toward the end the narrative struggles to tie up loose ends. Charles Randolph and McKay took home the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, with additional nominations for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Editing. The DVD retails for $29.99, the Blu-ray for $39.99. Rated R. ***
THE BOOST (Olive Films): The reportedly tempestuous off-screen relationship between James Woods and Sean Young was likely more interesting than this hoary, high-pitched cautionary 1988 adaptation of Ben Stein’s 1982 best-seller Ludes, about a California couple whose lives are ruined by his drug addiction. The Blu-ray retails for $29.95. Rated R. *
BREAKER! BREAKER! (Olive Films): Cashing in on the CB radio craze and providing an early lead for Chuck Norris, this standard-issue 1977 crash-fest marked Don Hulette’s directorial debut and sees trucker and martial-arts expert (of course) Norris seeking his missing brother in a small California town lorded over by corrupt judge George Murdock (whose hammy turn balances Norris’ stoicism). The DVD retails for $14.95, the Blu-ray for $29.98. Rated PG. *Â½
CHILDREN OF THE STARS (Billingsgate Media/MVD Entertainment Group): Bill Perrine’s entertaining, sometimes eye-opening documentary focuses on the Unarius Academy of Science, a cult dedicated to the belief that extra-terrestrials have visited Earth before â€“ and will do so again. Perrine doesn’t mock the believers, but the humor shines through in clips from vintage sci-fi films interspersed throughout, as well as clips from the indescribable Unarius promotional films the members have made over the years. No pun intended, but this could well end up being a cult classic. ***
CLEAN SLATE (Olive Films): Dana Carvey’s bid for big-screen stardom again proved elusive in this mild 1994 comedy/mystery in which he plays an amnesiac private eye trying to investigate a murder. James Earl Jones, Valeria Golino, Michael Gambon, Michael Murphy, Kevin Pollak and Olivia d’Abo help â€“ a little. The Blu-ray retails for $29.95. Rated PG-13. **
COWBOYS VS. DINOSAURS (Monarch Home Entertainment): The CGI comes thick and cheap in this low-budget sci-fi romp in which a mine explosion unleashes hungry dinosaurs on a small town. Forget the Jurassic Park films; The Valley of Gwangi (1969) did this sort of thing better, although Eric Roberts (drunken jailbird) and Vernon Wells (sleazy tycoon) add a little ham to the predictable, sometimes campy, proceedings. *Â½
FRIDAY FOSTER (Olive Films): Pam Grier is foxy and fabulous in the title role of director Arthur Marks’ entertaining 1975 screen version of the syndicated newspaper comic strip, in which she plays a dauntless, globe-trotting photojournalist whose latest story could be her last. The tagline boasted “Wham! Bam! Here Comes Pam!” â€“ and she’s backed by a stellar cast including Yaphet Kotto, Eartha Kitt, Scatman Crothers, Thalmus Rasulala, Carl Weathers, Jim Backus, Julius Harris, Ted Lange, Jason Bernard, Paul Benjamin and the incomparable Godfrey Cambridge. The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. Rated R. **Â½
THE GIRL IN THE BOOK (Monarch Home Entertainment): Award-winning short filmmaker Marya Cohn makes her feature debut as writer/director of this well-acted if episodic drama with Emily VanCamp as a junior book editor forced to renew acquaintance with the best-selling author (Michael Nyqvist) who took advantage of her as a teenager (played in flashbacks by the superb Ana Mulvoy-Ten). Actor/playwright Michael Cristofer is memorable as Mulvoy-Ten/VanCamp’s pushy father. Occasionally soapy but worth a look. **Â½
HANNIE CAULDER (Olive Films): In the title role, Raquel Welch vows vengeance on the trio of outlaw brothers (Ernest Borgnine, Strother Martin and Jack Elam â€“ one grubbier than the next) who raped her and killed her husband, in director Burt Kennedy’s zesty but uneven 1971 Western, with sturdy support from Robert Culp, Diana Dors, an unbilled Stephen Boyd, and the much-missed Christopher Lee (in his only Western!). The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. Originally rated PG, now rated R. **Â½
“THE HEAVY WATER WAR” (MHz Networks): A three-DVD collection ($39.95 retail) of the award-winning, fact-based, six-part 2015 mini-series (originally titled Kampen om tungtvannet and also known as The Saboteurs), dramatizing the efforts of the Allies to sabotage the Nazis’ efforts to develop atomic technology during World War II. The international cast includes Espen Reboli Bjerke, Andreas Dohler, Espen Klouman Hoiner, Robert Hunger-Buhler, Marc Benjamin Puch, Christoph Bach and Anna Friel, directed by Per-Olav Sorensen. In Norwegian with English subtitles.
THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART 2 (LionsGate): The profitable but hugely disappointing franchise, based on Suzanne Collins’ best-selling trilogy â€“ stretched to a fourth movie purely for artistic reasons (sure —) â€“ comes to a close, and not a moment too soon, in this overlong finale that mostly squanders its all-star cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Julianne Moore, Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Natalie Dormer and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman (in his final film). The DVD retails for $29.95, the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $39.99. LionsGate is also releasing the self-explanatory The Hunger Games Complete 4-Film Collection on DVD ($54.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($64.97 retail). Rated PG-13. *Â½
JAFAR PANAHI’S TAXI (Kino Lorber): Having been banned from filmmaking since 2010, acclaimed Iranian filmmaker adopts a “found-footage” approach for this award-winning pseudo-documentary, as he films the passengers he picks up in the taxi he drives to make ends meet. In Persian with English subtitles. The DVD retails for $29.95, the Blu-ray for $34.94. **Â½
KILL OR BE KILLED (RLJ Entertainment): A grubby group of outlaws (headed by co-writer/co-director/executive producer Justin Meeks) fall prey to a mysterious killer in this broad but entertaining horror Western (originally titled Red on Yella, Kill a Fella) co-written and co-directed by executive producer Duane Graves, featuring Paul McCarthy-Boyington, Greg Kelly, Luce Rains, producer Karrie Cox, Sonny Carl Davis, Texas Chainsaw Massacre veteran Edwin Neal, and associate producers Pepe Serna and Michael Berryman. **Â½
LIVE NUDE GIRLS (Olive Films): Despite the provocative title, writer/director Julianna Lavin’s debut (and, to date, only) feature is a perceptive, observant 1995 comedy/drama about a group of female friends â€“ although the ensemble cast is certainly alluring: Kim Cattrall, Dana Delany, Olivia d’Abo, Cynthia Stevenson, Laila Robins and Lora Zane. The DVD retails for $19.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. Rated R. ***
“MAMMON” (MHz Networks): A three-DVD collection ($39.95 retail) of all six episodes from the inaugural 2014 season of the popular mystery series starring Jon Oigarden as a relentless reporter who uncovers evidence of widespread political corruption in Norway â€“ which immediately puts him, and those around him, in danger. An English-language remake is in the works. In Norwegian with English subtitles.
“THE ROYALS”: SEASON TWO (LionsGate): A three-DVD collection ($29.98 retail) of all 10 episodes from the 2015-’16 season of the popular E! drama series filled with scandal, deception and treachery in depicting a fictitious royal family in contemporary London, with Elizabeth Hurley as the Queen, William Moseley and Alexandra Park as her twin children, and Tom Austen, Andrew Bicknell, Jake Maskall and Joan Collins as the Grand Duchess of Oxford.
“TURN: WASHINGTON’S SPIES” â€“ THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON (Anchor Bay Entertainment): A three-DVD collection ($49.98 retail) of all 10 episodes from the 2015 season of the award-winning AMC series based on Alexander Rose’s 2007 best-seller, dramatizing the formation of America’s first spy ring, the Culper Ring, which carried out covert operations during the American Revolution. The cast includes Jamie Bell, Heather Lind, Kevin R. McNally, Angus Macfadyen, Daniel Henshall, and Ian Kahn as George Washington.
(Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2016, Mark Burger) HYPERLINK “mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org”email@example.com