Video Vault – Apr 19, 2017
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
DVD PICK OF THE WEEK
THE HANDMAID’S TALE (Shout! Factory): Before last year’s mini-series, Margaret Atwood’s controversial, award-winning 1985 best-seller was adapted into an underrated 1990 film boasting the talents of screenwriter Harold Pinter, director Volker Schlondorff, and a fine cast including Natasha Richardson, Robert Duvall, Faye Dunaway, Aidan Quinn, Elizabeth McGovern, Victoria Tennant and recent RiverRun festival filmmaker Blanche Baker.
Set in an oppressive, crypto-fascist future rife with hard-line Old Testament theology, Richardson plays Kate, a rare fertile woman who is forced to undergo “training” as a “Handmaiden,” a surrogate mother for the rich and powerful, then sent to serve — and service — a high-ranking government official called “The Commander” (Duvall) and his evangelist wife Serena Joy (Faye Dunaway), only to get caught up in a covert conspiracy.
Classy, literate and thought-provoking, the film (not unlike the novel) is often chilly, but this is a film whose best intentions come through loud and clear, and the resonance of the Tale remains potent. Ryuichi Sakamoto’s score is excellent, as are the performances of the luminous and much-missed Richardson and Duvall, superb in a difficult role. Filmed on North Carolina locations, including Duke University!
This was one of the highest-profile and most expensive movies produced by the independent Cinecom Pictures, and its box-office failure hastened the company’s demise a year later. The DVD/Blu-ray combo retails for $29.99. Rated R. ***
“800 WORDS”: SEASON 2, PART 1 (RLJ Entertainment/Acorn): Widowed newspaperman Erik Thomson and his children (Melinda Vidler and Benson John Anthony) continue their adjustment to the sleepy New Zealand town of Weld, in the first eight episodes from the 2016-’17 season of the award-winning Australian drama series, available on DVD ($49.99 retail).
ACTOR MARTINEZ (Breaking Glass Pictures): The lines between fact and fiction blur in writer/directors Nathan Silver and Mike Ott’s consistently off-kilter, totally unconventional comedy/drama/pseudo-documentary in which the filmmakers are hired by aspiring actor Arthur Martinez to make a movie about his life. A unique look at the creative process, with Lindsay Burdge scoring as the actress “Lindsay Burdge,” hired to play/be Arthur’s girlfriend. **½
BLOODRUNNERS (Speakeasy Pictures/IMPULSE-FX): Writer/director/cinematographer/production designer Dan Lantz’s period shocker is set in a small Prohibition-era town in Pennsylvania where dapper club owner and bloodsucker Ice-T lords over the bootlegging trade – smuggling as much blood as hooch – until he clashes with crooked, chain-smoking detective Michael McFadden (also associate producer and screenwriter). In the same vein (no pun intended) as From Dusk Till Dawn (1996), although the low budget hinders some of the film’s inspiration and zest. The DVD/Blu-ray combo retails for $14.99. **
BUBBA HO-TEP (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): A collector’s-edition Blu-ray ($34.93 retail) of Don Coscarelli’s award-winning 2002 adaptation of Joe R. Lansdale’s short story, pitting Elvis Presley (Bruce Campbell) and JFK (Ossie Davis) against the titular mummy menace (Bob Ivy) in the East Texas nursing home where both now reside, abandoned and forgotten. Imaginative and fun, with Campbell and Davis a first-rate comedy duo. Ella Joyce, Reggie Bannister, Daniel Roebuck and Larry Pennell also appear. A sequel has long been in the works but has yet to materialize. Special features include multiple audio commentaries (including one by Campbell as Elvis!), retrospective interviews, featurettes, music video and more. Rated R. ***
BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB (The Criterion Collection): Wim Wenders’ deservedly acclaimed, Oscar-nominated 1999 feature documentary follows musician Ry Cooder to Cuba, where he rounds up a stellar lineup of retired musicians who were virtually forgotten following Fidel Castro’s takeover in 1959 and celebrates their legacy with a rollicking, infectiously affectionate reunion concert at New York’s Carnegie Hall. Both the special-edition DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) contain such bonus features as audio commentary, retrospective interviews and more. Rated G. ***½
THE BURNINGMORE DEATHS (Cleopatra/MVD Entertainment Group): Former Queensryche frontman Geoff Tate narrates and makes an inauspicious starring debut in writer/editor/director/co-star Jonathan Williams’ feature debut, a lame found-footage/true-crime shocker about the crew of a reality show murdered one by one by a man who earlier slaughtered his family. Made in 2010 under the title The Burningmore Incident, but a dud by any name. ½
CONCRETE LOVE: THE ARCHITECTURE OF THE BOHM FAMILY (First Run Features): Writer/director Maurizius Staerkle-Drux’s feature documentary (originally titled Die Bohms: Architektur einer Familie) explores the life, work and legacy of noted architect Gottfried Bohm, and his relationship with sons Stephan, Peter and Paul. In English, German and Mandarin with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.95 retail).
“THE DEAD OR ALIVE TRILOGY” (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): A collector’s-edition Blu-ray ($49.95 retail) of Takashi Miike’s action-packed trilogy consisting of 1999’s Dead or Alive (Deddo oa araibu: Hanzaisha), 2000’s Dead or Alive: Birds (Dead or Alive: Toshoba) and 2002’s Dead or Alive: Final. All three films star Riki Takeuchi and Show Aikawa (although not in the same roles), and special features include archival interviews, audio commentary and retrospective interviews, in Japanese with English subtitles.
“LEGEND OF BRUCE LEE: VOLUME TWO” (Well Go USA Entertainment): Danny Chan returns as the legendary martial arts icon in this 10-episode collection from the 2008 mini-series dramatizing his life and career, with Michelle Lang (as Linda Lee), Ray Park, Mark Dacasacos, Wang Luoyang, Tim Storms, Gary Daniels, and Michael Jai White (as Muhammad Ali). In English and Mandarin with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.98 retail).
OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY (Paramount): The title tells all in this feeble, flimsy, self-explanatory yuletide farce that is not only a waste of time but also a capable cast: Jason Bateman, Jennifer Aniston, T.J. Miller, Kate McKinnon, Rob Corddry, Olivia Munn, Jillian Bell, Vanessa Bayer and Courtney B. Vance, available on DVD ($29.99 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($39.99 retail). Rated R (also available in an unrated version). *
PROPERTY IS NO LONGER A THEFT (Arrow Films/MVD Entertainment Group): Elio Petri’s award-winning 1973 Italian-language farce (originally titled La Proprieta non e piu un furto) stars Flavio Bucci as a frustrated bank teller who takes out his anger toward the establishment by tormenting local butcher Ugo Tognazzi, who’s also one of the bank’s most prominent customers. The special-edition DVD/Blu-ray combo ($39.95 retail) includes retrospective interviews and more.
THE STORY OF SIN (Arrow Films/MVD Entertainment Group): Walerian Borowczyk’s Polish-language, R-rated 1975 adaptation of Stefania Zeromskiego’s novel (originally titled Dzieje grzechu) detailing the passionate and destructive love affair between an innocent teenager (Grazyna Dlugolecka) and a married anthropologist (Jerzy Zelnick) who rents a room in her family’s home, available in a special-edition DVD/Blu-ray combo ($39.95 retail) replete with special features.
TALES OF POE (Wild Eye Releasing): Writer/directors Bart Mastronardi (also cinematographer) and Alan Rowe Kelly’s award-winning anthology brings three classic Edgar Allan Poe tales (The Tell Tale Heart, The Cask of Amontillado and Dreams) to modern times, with a cast comprised of “scream queens” Caroline Williams, Amy Steel, Adrienne King, Debbie Rochon and Lesleh Donaldson. The interpretations are broad but interesting, with plenty of black comedy thrown into the mix. A little long at two hours, but enjoyable and quite gruesome at times. Definite cult status potential and definitely not for the squeamish. The DVD ($19.95 retail) includes deleted scenes, featurette, interviews and more. **½
TANK 432 (IFC Midnight/Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Rupert Evans, Steve Garry and Deirdre Mullins head the cast of writer/director Nick Gillespie’s debut feature, a post-apocalyptic shocker where a group of mercenaries and their hostages are trapped by an unseen enemy within a disabled tank, available on DVD ($14.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($22.97 retail).
UNDERWORLD: BLOOD WARS (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Black-clad Kate Beckinsale’s back in action in the fifth installment of the popular R-rated horror franchise depicting the ongoing battle between vampires and werewolves (Lycans), marking the feature debut of director Anna Foerster and available on DVD ($26.99 retail), Blu-ray ($24.99 retail) and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray ($45.99 retail) – each replete with special features.
(Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2017, Mark Burger) HYPERLINK “mailto:email@example.com”firstname.lastname@example.org