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[VIDEO VAULT]

by Mark Burger

MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT

DVD PICK OF THE WEEK

HERE COMES MR. JORDAN (The Criterion Collection): There’s charm to spare in this delightful 1941 comedy, based on Harry Segall’s 1938 stage hit Heaven Can Wait and remade by Warren Beatty in 1978 (as Heaven Can Wait) and Chris Rock in 2001 (as Down to Earth). But this is a quintessential example of the original being the best.

After his plane crashes, boxer Joe Pendleton (Robert Montgomery) is whisked to Heaven by the eager Messenger 7013 (Edward Everett Horton at his fussy best). Trouble is, Joe wasn’t supposed to die, but thanks to a little sleight-of-hand by the titular Mr. Jordan (the always-great Claude Rains), Joe’s soul is transported to the body of crooked tycoon Bruce Farnsworth, who’s just been poisoned by his faithless wife (Rita Johnson) and her lover, Farnsworth’s secretary (John Emery) – and they’re very surprised when he turns up alive and well.

The sparkling cast also includes Evelyn Keyes as Bette Logan, whom Joe/Farnsworth falls in love, and James Gleason as Joe’s crusty but lovable trainer Max.

The film was a big hit with audiences and critics alike, and won Academy Awards for Best Original Story and Best Screenplay (this was at a time when they were separate categories), with additional nominations for Best Picture, Best Director (Alexander Hall), Best Actor (Montgomery), Best Supporting Actor (Gleason), and Best Cinematography.

Both the DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) include bonus features. ***½

ALSO AVAILABLE

10 CLOVERFIELD LANE (Paramount): Director Dan Trachtenberg’s feature debut is an entertaining follow-up (of sorts) to the 2008 sci-fi hit, as survivalist John Goodman (in an intense performance) keeps Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Gallagher Jr. “protected” in his underground bunker from an unseen menace, available on DVD ($29.99 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($39.99 retail). Rated PG-13. **½

“THE BIBLE STORIES” (Shout! Factory): A pair of Biblical epics originally aired on TNT: Matthew Modine stars in the title role of Jacob (1994), co-starring Lara Flynn Boyle, Sean Bean, Giancarlo Giannini, Joss Ackland, Christoph Waltz and Irene Papas; Paul Mercurio plays the title role in 1995’s Joseph (also known as Joseph in Egypt), with Ben Kingsley, Martin Landau, Alice Krige, Lesley Ann Warren, Dominique Sanda and Monica Bellucci, which won the Emmy as Outstanding Mini-Series and earned an additional four nominations including one for Kingsley as Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Mini-Series or Movie. Each DVD retails for $14.93.

CAPTIVE (Paramount): Fine performances by David Oyelowo (also a producer) and Kate Mara elevate this fact- and faith-based adaptation of Ashley Smith’ non-fiction best seller Unlikely Angel, as an escaped convict who takes a young widow and recovering drug addict hostage in her apartment. Michael Kenneth Williams, Mimi Rogers, Leonor Varela and Jessica Oyelowo (David’s real-life wife) round out a sincere cast. Rated PG-13. **½

CHRONICLES OF THE GHOSTLY TRIBE (Well Go USA Entertainment): Lu Chuan’s fantasy spectacle (originally titled Jiu ceng yao to) involves the destructive consequences of an underground expedition that unleashes a spate of rampaging creatures from another dimension. In Mandarin with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.98 retail).

CORNBREAD, EARL AND ME (Olive Films): Amidst the spate of ’70s “blaxploitation” potboilers, producer/director Joe Manduke’s 1975 debut feature, an adaptation of Ronald Fair’s novel Hog Butcher, takes a credible look at racism and police corruption in the inner city, as a neighborhood is rocked by the shooting of basketball hopeful Keith Wilkes (future NBA star Jamaal Wilkes, in his only feature film), with a solid cast including Moses Gunn, Madge Sinclair, Bernie Casey, Rosalind Cash, Thalmus Rasulala, Antonio Fargas, Stack Pierce, and young Laurence Fishburne (in an impressive screen debut). The DVD retails for $19.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. Rated PG. ***

CRACKERJACK (Monarch Home Entertainment): Executive producer Jeff Foxworthy narrates writer/producer/editor/director Bryan Cully’s feature debut, a slow-moving corn-pone comedy (with a heavy dose of faith-based elements) starring Wes Murphy in the title role, a cheerful ne’er-do-well forced to man up when he agrees to play softball for the church where his pregnant girlfriend (Bethany Anne Lind) is a parishioner. With its simplistic characters and one-note performances, this commits the unpardonable sin of being dull – and that includes the softball scenes. Rated PG-13. *

DUSK (Monarch Home Entertainment): Writer/producer/director Michael Maney’s noteworthy debut feature stars John McGlothin as a man whose wife (Juliana Harkavy) disappears, leading him on an increasing twisted odyssey to find her – and himself. Reminiscent of Christopher Nolan’s 2000 breakthrough Memento (likely intentional) replete with a surprise denouement. **½

ENDGAME (Shout! Factory): Writer/producer/director Carmen Marron’s drama, inspired by true events, starts Rico Rodriguez as a teenager whose knack for chess takes him and his classmates from Brownsville, Tex., to the state chess championship. Filmed on location, and now available on DVD ($14.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($22.97 retail).

FASTBALL (Kino Lorber): The title tells all in Jonathan Hock’s sports documentary, narrated by Kevin Costner with Hank Aaron and Derek Jeter, that reflects on legendary Major League pitchers renowned for their heaters, featuring interviews with Johnny Bench, Tony Gwynn, Joe Morgan, George Brett and Al Kaline, available on DVD $29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($34.95 retail).

FRANCOFONIA (Music Box Films Home Entertainment): Alexander Sokurov’s award-winning drama examines the status of the Louvre by the Nazi occupation of Paris during World War II. In French, German and Russian with English subtitles, available on DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($34.95) – both replete with special features.

GEORGE CRUMB: VOICE OF THE WHALE (Mug-Shot Productions/MVD Entertainment Group): A restored version of Robert Mugge’s 1976 music documentary (his first) exploring the life and career of Pulitzer Prize- and Grammy Award-winning composer George Crumb as he performs his 1971 composition Vox Balaenae for Three Masked Players, originally broadcast on PBS and now available on DVD ($19.95 retail).

A HOME OF OUR OWN (Olive Films): UNCSA School of Filmmaking faculty member Dale Pollock produced this well-intentioned but mild 1993 drama starring Kathy Bates as a widowed matriarch trying to establish a stable foundation for her six children (including Edward Furlong, in an award-winning performance). Soon-Tek Oh has one of his best roles as a friendly neighbor, but too often this veers into soap-opera territory. The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. Rated PG. **

“INSPECTOR MONTALBANO”: EPISODES 27 & 28 (MHz Networks): A DVD collection ($39.95 retail) of two feature-length episodes from the 2016 season of the long-running, award-winning, Italian-language crime series (originally titled “Il commissario Montalbano”), based on Andrea Camilleri’s best-selling novels, set in modern-day Sicily and starring Luca Zingaretti as the title character.

JOSEPH & MARY (Cinedigm): Kevin Sorbo and Lara Jean Chorostecki play the title roles in director Roger Christian’s Biblical drama, available on DVD ($24.93 retail).

“THE LAST PANTHERS” (RLJ Entertainment/Acorn): John Hurt, Samantha Morton, Tahar Rahim and Goran Bogdan head the cast of this British mini-series, created by Jack Thorne, in which a diamond heist in Marseilles bears the imprint of the notorious, international crime network known as the “Pink Panthers,” available on DVD and Blu-ray (each $39.95 retail).

“OUTLAW: GANGSTER VIP COLLECTION” (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): A limited-edition, six-film DVD/Blu-ray combo ($79.95 retail) of Toshio Masuda’s fact-based 1968 Japanese yakuza crime drama Gangster VIP, based on the life of real-life ex-gangster Goro Fujita, which proved so popular it became an immediate franchise that included Goro the Assassin, Black Dagger, Gangster VIP 2 and Heartless (all ’68!), then Kill! (1969). Special features include original trailers, audio commentary, high-definition transfer and newly translated English subtitles.

RETURN OF THE KILLER TOMATOES (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): Yes, it’s the special-edition Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) of writer/director John DeBello’s 1988 sequel to his 1979 camp classic Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, with George Clooney and Anthony Starke as the pizza-boy heroes and a scenery-chewing John Astin as Prof. Gangrene, bent on re-starting “the Great Tomato War.” Silly but harmless, and a painless way to kill time — if not tomatoes. Special features include audio commentary, retrospective interviews, and more. Rated PG. **

RICH KIDS (Olive Films): Robert Altman executive-produced director Robert M. Young’s PG-rated 1979 comedy, written by Judith Ross (her only screen credit), starring newcomers Trini Alvarado and Jeremy Levy as teenagers disenchanted with their parents’ neuroses and martial woes. Lots of familiar faces on hand (many of them New York stage veterans): John Lithgow, David Selby, Paul Dooley, Kathryn Walker, Irene Worth, Terry Kiser, Roberta Maxwell, Olympia Dukakis and Jill Eikenberry, available on DVD ($24.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail).

STAGECOACH (Olive Films): Director Ted Post’s award-winning made-for-TV 1986 version of the classic 1939 Western has been fashioned as a vehicle for the country “super-group” The Highwaymen (Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and executive producer Willie Nelson as Doc Holliday). Not without its entertaining and action-packed moments, just don’t expect John Ford. Elizabeth Ashley, Tony Franciosa, Anthony Newley, Mary Crosby, John Schneider, David Allan Coe, June Carter Cash (Johnny’s wife) and Jessi Colter (Jennings’ missus) round out the cast, and Nelson and Coe supervised the score. The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. **½

“STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION”: THE COMPLETE SERIES (CBS DVD/Paramount): To celebrate 50 years of “Star Trek” – one of Paramount’s most lucrative franchises – this self-explanatory collection includes all 178 episodes from the entire 1987-’94 run of the syndicated, award-winning blockbuster science-fiction series, created by Gene Roddenberry, that follows the further adventures of the Starship Enterprise – this time in the 24th century. Both the DVD ($144.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($208.99 retail) include a myriad of bonus features for “Trekkies” — or “Trekkers,” if you prefer.

“THE YOUNG MONTALBANO” (MHz Networks): Before becoming “Inspector Montalbano” (see above), this popular Italian-language spin-off series (originally titled “Il giovane Montalbano”) chronicles the early cases of the up-and-coming detective (played by Michele Riondino), based on Andrea Camilleri’s best-selling crime novels: “Episodes 7-9” and “Episodes 10-12” each include three feature-length mysteries from the 2015 season, and each DVD retails for $39.95.

(Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2016, Mark Burger) HYPERLINK “mailto:marksburger@yahoo.com”marksburger@yahoo.com

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