DVD PICK OF THE WEEK:
THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE
(Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
Director Joseph Sargent’s crackling 1974 adaptation of John Godey’s best-seller novel is fast-paced, first-rate entertainment.
The set-up is simple: Four armed men (Robert Shaw, Martin Balsam, Hector Elizondo and Earl Hindman) hijack a New York City subway train and demand $1 million from the city or they’ll start killing the hostages.
Walter Matthau, expertly combining caustic humor with dogged diligence, is in prime form as police mediator Lt. Garber, and an excellent cast includes Tony Roberts, Jerry Stiller, Dick O’Neill, James Broderick, Kenneth McMillan, Julius Harris, Doris Roberts, and Lee Wallace (as the miserable mayor).
The actors do full justice to Peter Stone’s snappy, scrappy screenplay, while Owen Roizman’s cinematography and especially David Shire’s score augment the proceedings very nicely indeed. The Taking of Pelham One Two Three was remade for TV in 1998 and again as a feature in 2009, but both lacked the sheer magic of the original.
The “42 nd Anniversary Edition,” available on DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail), includes audio commentary, retrospective interviews, theatrical trailer and more. Rated R.
BEFORE I SLEEP (Indican Pictures): David Warner enjoys a welcome tour-deforce lead turn in writer/producer/directors Billy and Aaron Schiff (the latter’s feature debut)’s low-key drama, as an aging, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer reflecting on his past, backed by a solid and eclectic cast including Cynthia Gibb, Tom Sizemore, Chevy Chase, Jamie Bamber, Campbell Scott, Eric Roberts, Bonnie Wright, Alice St. Clair, Sasha Spielberg (Kate Capshaw and Steven’s daughter), and James Rebhorn (in his final role). Well worth a look.
THE BLACK DOVE (Indican Pictures): Producer/editor/cinematographer Michael Caporale’s feature debut as writer/director stars John Savage (in his biggest and showiest role in years) as a burned-out singer trying to jump-start his life and career after being paroled from prison. Sincere intentions are frequently undercut by over-length and unresolved story threads.
CHOSEN (LionsGate): Director Jasmin Dizdar’s second feature (and first since 1999!) features Harvey Keitel as a Hungarian immigrant who tells grandson Julian Shatkin stories about his younger self (Luke Mably), leading the resistance during World War II. This is fact-inspired and well-meaning but episodic, although the second half gains some traction. Rated R.
“CODE BLACK”: SEASON ONE (CBS DVD/Paramount): A five-DVD collection ($55.98 retail) of all 18 episodes from the inaugural 2015-’16 season of the awardwinning CBS medical drama, inspired by the 2013 documentary of the same name, dramatizing the goings-on at Angels Memorial Hospital, with Marcia Gay Harden heading an ensemble cast including Bonnie Somervile, Benjamin Hollingworth, Melanie Chandra, Harry Ford, William Allen Young, Boris Kodjoe, Raza Jaffrey and Luis Guzman.
DUKHTAR (Silk Road Cinema/Kino Lorber): Writer/producer/director/co-editor Afia Nathaniel’s award-winning debut feature stars Samiya Mumtaz as a mother who spirits young daughter Saleha Aref (in her screen debut) away from an arranged marriage to a tribal leader, thus making them the target of a relentless manhunt through the mountains of Pakistan. In Urdu and Pashto with English subtitles, available on DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($34.95 retail).
A HOLOGRAM FOR THE KING (LionsGate): Producer Tom Hanks headlines screenwriter/director Tom Tykwer’s awardwinning, R-rated adaptation of David Eggers’ best-seller as a washed-up American businessman trying to sell holographic teleconferencing technology in Saudi Arabia, with Sarita Choudhury, Alexander Black, Ben Whishaw and Tom Skerritt in support, available on DVD ($19.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($24.98 retail).
“THE KNICK”: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON (HBO): Chief surgeon Clive Owen continues to wrestle with his personal demons while making strides toward advancing modern medicine and human rights at the Knickerbocker Hospital in early 20th-century New York, in all 10 episodes from the 2016 season of Emmynominated director Steven Soderbergh’s award-winning Cinemax medical series, inspired by actual events and characters, available on DVD ($24.98 retail) and Bluray ($34.98 retail) – both replete with special features including audio commentaries and behind-the-scenes documentaries.
LEE SCRATCH PERRY’S VISION OF PARADISE (Cadiz Music/Entertainment One): Documentary filmmaker Volker Schaner spent 15 years filming this music documentary about Jamaican-born, Grammy-winning performer and producer Lee “Scratch” Perry (born Rainford Perry) and his lasting impact, available in a special-edition DVD ($24.99 retail)
“LINE OF DUTY”: SERIES 3 (RLJ Entertainment/Acorn): A DVD collection ($39.99 retail) of all six feature-length episodes from the 2016 season of creator Jed Mercurio’s award-winning BBC crime series (aired by Hulu in the US), with Martin Compston and Vicky McClure back on the case, investigating police corruption in contemporary London, with Keeley Hawes, Adrian Dunbar, Craig Parkinson, Neil Morrissey, Polly Walker and Daniel Mays in support.
THE OUTSIDER (Olive Films): Director/screenwriter Tony Luraschi’s first (and only) feature was this R-rated 1980 adaptation of Michael Leinster’s The Heritage of Michael Flaherty, starring Craig Wasson in the title role of a disillusioned Vietnam veteran who visits grandfather Sterling Hayden in Belfast and joins the IRA (Irish Republican Army), available on DVD ($24.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail).
THE RATINGS GAME (Olive Films):
Danny DeVito made his directorial bow and stars with real-life wife Rhea Perlman in this award-winning 1984 satire of network television, backed by a star-studded cast including George Wendt, Kevin McCarthy, Gerrit Graham, Daniel Stern, Vincent Schiavelli, Steve Allen, Michael Richards, Huntz Hall (in his last film), Barry Corbin, Tracey Walter, Ron Rifkin, Joe Santos, Selma Diamond, Lee Ving, Robert Costanzo, Army Archerd (as himself), and Steve Allen and Jayne Meadows (as themselves). Look fast for Jerry Seinfeld. This marked Showtime’s first feature film, and although dated it’s still affable and amusing. The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95 – both with special features.
RED SONJA: QUEEN OF PLAGUES (Shout! Factory): Robert E. Howard’s ferocious female warrior returns (voiced by Misty Lee) in this full-length animated fantasy/adventure penned by Gail Simone and illustrated by Walter Geovani, available in a DVD/Blu-ray combo ($24.95 retail).
THE ROMANS (Indican Pictures): Writer/director Korey Green’s feature debut transposes Julius Caesar to the mean streets of Buffalo, with charismatic Jon Cesar (aptly-named!) as “Earl Roman,” a powerful crime czar betrayed by those closest to him. Occasionally high-minded and hampered by a low budget, this sometimes plays like a TV pilot, but its ambitions make it worth a look, especially for Shakespeare buffs.
SAVING MR. WU (Well Go USA Entertainment): Writer/editor/director Sheng Ding’s fact-based thriller (originally titled Jie jiu Wu xian sheng) stars Andy Lau in the title role of a movie star who is kidnapped by a gang of thugs posing as cops. In Chinese and Mandarin with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.98 retail) and Bluray ($29.98 retail).
SUTURE (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment): A DVD/Blu-ray combo ($39.95 retail) of writer/producer/directors David Siegel and Scott McGehee’s award-winning 1993 debut feature, executive-produced by Steven Soderbergh, a paranoid psychothriller with noir-ish and existential overtones, starring Dennis Haysbert, Mel Harris, Sab Shimono, Dina Merrill and David Graf, with special features including retrospective interviews, audio commentary and more.
THE TRUST (LionsGate): Nicolas Cage and Elijah Wood portray corrupt Las Vegas cops whose scheme to rob a hidden vault owned by drug dealers goes awry in this R-rated crime drama, available on DVD ($19.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($24.98 retail).
! MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2016, Mark Burger.