The Arts

Video Vault – Aug 9, 2017

MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT

DVD PICK OF THE WEEK

THE EXCEPTION (LionsGate): At this stage in his distinguished and unstoppable career, Christopher Plummer can do no wrong, and although he’s not the star of The Exception, his presence – playing Kaiser Wilhelm II – dominates the proceedings.

Set in 1940, with the Third Reich at full power, Wilhelm has been living in exile in Belgium since the end of World War I. Now, the Germans are coming to “reclaim” him and, perhaps, return him to some semblance of power. Yet the wily Wilhehlm is unafraid to speak his mind about Hitler’s reich, often to the chagrin of his wife, Princess Hermine (Janet McTeer).

Top billing goes to Jai Courtney as Brandt, the strapping but tormented chief guard assigned to protect (and spy on) the Kaiser, and Lily James as Mieke, the comely handmaiden who embarks on a passionate affair with him, despite specific orders not to fraternize. What Brandt doesn’t know, at least initially, is that Mieke is Jewish … and an undercover British operative.

Stealing his every scene (and thus the film), Plummer brings both a regal bearing and a ruined dignity to the role of Wilhelm, thereby humanizing this historical figure. Eddie Marsan contributes a brief but memorable turn as a particularly odious Heinrich Himmler.

Adapted from an Alan Judd’s novel The Kaiser’s Last Kiss by Simon Burke, director David Leveaux imbues this polished potboiler with a driving momentum, fortified by by Roman Osin’s cinematography and Ilan Eshkori’s score. The use of actual events and characters is also effective without being exploitative. The DVD retails for $19.98, the Blu-ray for $24.99. Rated R. ***

ALSO AVAILABLE

1944 (The Film Movement): Director Elmo Nuganen’s fact-based World War II saga dramatizes the Estonian civil war, fought by soldiers conscripted by both the Soviet and German armies and pitted against one another. In Estonian with English subtitles, or you can watch it dubbed – and available on DVD ($24.95 retail).

BILLY JACK: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION” (Shout! Factory): The title tells all in this special-edition Blu-ray collection ($44.99 retail) of all four films showcasing filmmaker/star Tom Laughlin in the title role of the soft-spoken Vietnam veteran, martial-arts expert and defender of the defenseless: Born Losers (1967), the 1971 box-office smash Billy Jack, the bloated but profitable 1974 follow-up The Trial of Billy Jack, and the barely-released Billy Jack Goes to Washington (1977). All are rated PG and include audio commentaries and trailers.

THE DINNER (LionsGate): Richard Gere and Steve Coogan portray brothers whose dinner with their respective wives (Rebecca Hall and Laura Linney) becomes a heated confrontation regarding a heinous crime committed by their respective sons (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick and Charlie Plummer), in screenwriter/director Oren Moverman’s disappointing and pretentious adaptation of the international best-seller by Herman Koch, who reportedly disliked the film. The DVD retails for $19.98, the Blu-ray for $24.99 – each with bonus features. Rated R. *½

GOING IN STYLE (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin are an irresistible trio as life-long friends who strike back against an unsympathetic system by planning – and executing – a bank robbery. Director Zach Braff’s remake of the 1979 comedy benefits also from a zesty supporting cast including Ann-Margret, Matt Dillon, Christopher Lloyd and Kenan Thompson. The DVD retails for $28.98, the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $35.99 retail. Rated PG-13. ***

HEARING IS BELIEVING (Gravitas Ventures): Lorenzo DeStefano’s feature documentary traces the life of acclaimed musician and composer Rachel Flowers, whose accomplishments are all the more remarkable because she’s been blind almost since birth, featuring interviews with family and friends, as well as such notable collaborators as Arturo Sandoval, Stevie Wonder, Dweezil Zappa, Benny Chong, and the late Keith Emerson, available on DVD ($16.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($19.99 retail).

“HE’S WITH ME”: SEASONS 1 & 2 (Dekkoo Films/TLA Releasing): A DVD collection ($29.99 retail) of all 10 episodes from the inaugural 2013 season and all 11 from the 2015-’16 seasons of the award-winning situation comedy about two friends — one straight (Bradford How’s Ted), one gay (Jason Cicci’s Martin) — and how their friendship evolves when they room together.

I AM THE BLUES (Film Movement): Writer/producer/director Daniel Cross’ award-winning documentary feature explores the venerable and celebrated “Chitlin’ Circuit” of the Mississippi Delta region, featuring such noted blues performers as Bobby Rush (who won his first Grammy – at age 83 — in February), Barbara Lynn, Little Freddie King, Lazy Lester, Bilbo Walker, Jimmy “Duck” Holmes and many others, available on DVD ($29.95 retail).

KEPT BOY (Breaking Glass Pictures): Director George Bamber’s adaptation of Robert Rodi’s novel stars Thure Riefenstein as a reality-TV host who demands that irresponsible live-in boyfriend Jon Paul Phillips shape up or ship out, available on DVD ($21.99 retail).

KUNG FU YOGA (Well Go USA Entertainment): Jackie Chan (also an executive producer) reunites with writer/producer/director Stanley Tong for this free-wheeling, globe-trotting adventure (originally titled Gong fu yu jia) about a daredevil archaeologist – named Jack, no less! — on a quest to locate a fabled, priceless treasure. In Mandarin with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.98 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($29.98 retail).

LONELY BOYS (Candy Factory Films): Director/editor/screenwriter Dan Simon’s auspicious and award-winning debut feature casts him as a struggling playwright who, along with his equally disillusioned best friend (producer/story writer Gregory Lay, in his feature debut), embarks on a booze-fueled, recrimination-filled weekend bender through Brooklyn and beyond. Michael Halliday, Mark Borkowski, Alexandra Tushen and veteran Richard Masur (very funny) also appear, and Max Cudworth contributes a nice score. Well worth a look. ***

MILTON GLASER: TO INFORM & DELIGHT (Kino Lorber): Producer/director Wendy Keys’ 2008 documentary feature debut explores the life and career of Milton Glaser, the renowned graphic designer and co-founder of New York Magazine. Like its subject, this is affable, insightful, and entertaining. ***

MONSTER TRUCKS (Paramount): Chris Wedge directed this PG-rated sci-fi comedy starring Lucas Till as a small-town teen who discovers an oil-eating creature hiding in his truck and embarks on a wild adventure, with Jane Levy, Rob Lowe, Amy Ryan, Thomas Lennon, Holt McCallany, Barry Pepper, Frank Whaley and Danny Glover along for the ride, available on DVD ($29.99 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($39.99 retail).

“MY LITTLE PONY: EQUESTRIA GIRLS – MAGICAL MOVIE NIGHT(Hasbro Studios/Shout! Kids Factory/Shout! Factory): A DVD compilation ($14.99 retail) of three special episodes (“Dance Magic,” “Movie Magic” and “Mirror Magic”) from the award-winning, animated children’s series.

NOCTURNE (Monarch Home Entertainment): At a high-school graduation party, kids (unwisely) decide to hold a séance and – naturally — all hell breaks loose in this award-winning shocker, with Claire Neiderpruem as a troubled heroine and Hailey Nebeker the unsuspecting victim of Satanic possession. A little talky initially, and the ending’s on the hokey side, but worth a look for genre fans, with a  nice spooky mood augmented by Christian Davis and Reuven Herman’s effective score. **½

“SEIJUN SUZUKI’S THE TAISHO TRILOGY” (Arrow Academy/MVD Entertainment Group): A limited-edition DVD/Blu-ray combo ($99.95 retail) of three acclaimed features by the noted, controversial Japanese director (who died in February at age 93), which are commonly referred to as the “Taisho Roman Trilogy”: 1980’s award-winning Zigeunerweisen, based on Hyakken Ushida’s novel Disk of Sarasate; 1981’s Kageroza (AKA Kagero-za), based on Kyoka Izumi’s novel; and 1991’s award-winning Yumeji. Special features include vintage interview, new introductions, and more.

SONNY ROLLINS: SAXOPHONE COLOSSUS (Mug-Shot Productions/MVD Entertainment Group): The title tells all in noted music documentarian Robert Mugge’s 1986 documentary in which he joins legendary tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins on tour in Japan and New York, exploring his life and career along the way – available on DVD and Blu-ray (each $19.95 retail).

See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2017, Mark Burger)

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