The Arts

Video Vault – Dec. 21, 2016



738329206703_pt01THE PARK IS MINE (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Director Steven Hilliard Stern’s 1985 adaptation of Stephen Peters’ novel, the first movie made for HBO, is a solid action melodrama with brains – as well as Tommy Lee Jones in top form.

He plays Mitch, a disillusioned Vietnam veteran who draws attention to the the plight of the forgotten and disenfranchised by systematically taking over Central Park, planting explosives and booby traps and causing an inevitable media firestorm, with aggressive TV journalist Helen Shaver leading the charge.

The exploitation framework is balanced by a credible storyline and solid performances down the line, with reliable Yaphet Kotto as a hard-nosed police commander who develops a grudging respect for Mitch, and Lawrence Dane at his unctuous best as the venal police commissioner, so determined to end the situation that he hires mercenaries to take Mitch out (!).

With Tangerine Dream providing an effective score and Toronto effectively subbing for the Big Apple, The Park is Mine is high-concept filmmaking that pays off. The DVD retails for $19.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. ***


19-2”: SEASON 3 (RLJ Entertainment/Acorn): Based on a French-language series, this award-winning crime series stars Adrian Holmes and Jared Keeso as partners in the Montreal Police Department’s “Station 19,” continuing their pursuit of justice. The DVD collection ($49.99 retail) includes all 10 episodes from the 2016 season.

“800 WORDS”: SEASON 1 (RLJ Entertainment/Acorn): Newly widowed newspaper columnist Erik Thomson decides to relocate his family from Sydney, Australia to the picturesque seaside village in New Zealand where he spent summers as a boy. The two-DVD collection ($49.99 retail) includes all eight episodes from the inaugural 2015 season of the award-winning comedy/drama series.

BEN-HUR (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures/Paramount): The fifth big-screen version of the Biblical epic based on Gen. Lew Wallace’s 1880 novel stars Jack Huston in the title role of a prince forced into slavery who returns to seek revenge against his adopted brother (Toby Kebbell) but instead finds redemption in a chance encounter with Jesus Christ (Rodrigo Santoro). This PG-rated (and faith-based) adaptation, a critical and financial disappointment, is available on DVD ($29.99 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($39.99 retail).

“BRIEF ENCOUNTERS” (RLJ Entertainment/Acorn): A two-DVD collection ($39.99 retail) of all six episodes from the inaugural 2016 season of the British sitcom, loosely based on Jacqueline Gold’s 1995 memoir Good Vibrations and set in the early 1980s, as a group of female friends (Penelope Wilton, Sophie Rundle, Angela Griffin and Sharon Rooney) supplement their income by becoming Ann Summers lingerie and sex-toy party organizers.

DOLLY PARTON’S CHRISTMAS OF MANY COLORS – CIRCLE OF LOVE (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): Executive producer Dolly Parton hosts and appears in this award-winning, faith-based follow-up to last year’s Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors, which dramatizes her upbringing in rural Tennessee, with Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Alyvia Alyn Lind reprising her role as young Dolly, available on DVD ($19.98 retail).

THE FRONTIER (Kino Lorber): Writer/editor/director Oren Shai’s latter-day film noir stars Jocelin Donahue as a drifter whose scheme to “liberate” stolen loot from a gang of thieves proves easier in theory than execution, available on DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($34.95 retail).

A FROZEN CHRISTMAS (Ruthless Studios/MVD Entertainment Group): A DVD compilation ($14.95) of animated, holiday-themed shorts including The Brave Tin Soldier, The Elves and the Shoemaker, The Little Match Girl, The Fir Tree and Little Girl’s Christmas.

“THE GOOD WIFE”: THE FINAL SEASON (CBS DVD/Paramount): A DVD collection ($64.99 retail) of all 22 episodes from the 2015-’16 season (plus bonus features) of the award-winning CBS legal drama starring Julianna Margulies as high-powered attorney Alicia Florrick, putting together the pieces of her personal and professional life while her estranged husband (Chris Noth) makes a run for the White House. Four Emmy nominations including Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series, Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series (Michael J. Fox), and Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series (Carrie Preston).

“HARLEY AND THE DAVIDSONS” (LionsGate): This three-part, fact-based Discovery Channel mini-series dramatizes the the creation of the iconic motorcycle at the turn of the 20th century, with Michiel Huisman and Bug Hall as brothers Walter and Arthur Davidson and Robert Aramayo as business partner Bill Harley, available in a DVD/Blu-ray combo ($24.99 retail).

HEART OF A DOG (The Criterion Collection): After a 30-year hiatus, Laurie Anderson returns to filmmaking with this award-winning documentary in which she reflects on such topics as life and death, 9/11, and her beloved canine Lolabelle, available in a special-edition DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) – both replete with bonus features.

THE IDOL (Adopt Films/Kino Lorber): Hany Abu-Assad’s award-winning drama (originally titled Ya tayr el tayer) is inspired by the life of Mohammed Assaf (played by Tawfeek Barhom as an adult and newcomer Kais Attalah as a boy), a singer raised in a refugee camp in Gaza who endured countless hardships but was determined to perform on the top-rated TV series “Arab Idol.” In Arabic and Spanish with English subtitles, available on DVD ($29.95 retail)

“THE LEGEND OF KORRA”: THE COMPLETE SERIES (Nickelodeon/Paramount): All four books and all 52 episodes from the entire 2012-’14 run of the award-winning, animated Nickelodeon fantasy series (spun off from “Avatar: The Last Airbender”) are available in an eight-DVD collection ($42.99 retail) and a limited-edition Blu-ray collection ($47.99 retail).

LITTLE MEN (Magnolia Home Entertainment): His trademark New York flavor present, writer/producer/director Ira Sachs’ intimate, award-winning drama stars talented newcomers  Theo Taplitz and Michael Barbieri as youngsters whose new friendship is tested when Taplitz’s parents (Greg Kinnear and Jennifer Ehle) and Barbieri’s single mother (Paulina Garcia) engage in a contentious dispute. Well-acted, credible, and intelligent. Rated PG. ***

LUCHA MEXICO (Kino Lorber): Producer Alex Hammond co-writer/co-director/co-cinematographer Ian Markiewicz’s documentary delves into the phenomenon and tradition of “Lucha Libre,” which originated in Mexico (but has since found international popularity), in which masked wrestlers wage war for ultimate glory. In English and Spanish with English subtitles, available on DVD ($29.95 retail).

THE NEPTUNE FACTOR (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): The Blu-ray bow ($29.95 retail) of director Daniel Petrie’s silly but entertaining 1973 sci-fi/disaster opus (also known as The Neptune Disaster) involving the rescue of scientists trapped in an undersea laboratory after an earthquake. The cast adds class: Ben Gazzara, Yvette Mimieux, Walter Pidgeon and Ernest Borgnine. (When yours truly interviewed Gazzara, he told me this was one of those films “you do to pay your rent”!). Rated G. **

“SOUNDBREAKING” (RLJ Entertainment/Athena): This eight-part music documentary series, subtitled “Stories from the Cutting Edge of Recorded Music” and narrated by Dermot Mulroney, examines the art of recording music with rare vintage footage and more than 150 celebrity interviews, including Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Roger Daltrey, Willie Nelson, Quincy Jones, BB King, Dave Grohl, Annie Lennox, Elton John and many more, available on DVD and Blu-ray (each $49.99 retail) – each replete with bonus features.

SOUTHSIDE WITH YOU (Miramax/LionsGate): Writer/director Richard Tanne’s award-winning, fact-based, PG-13-rated feature debut dramatizes the first date in 1989 between the young Barack Obama (Parker Sawyers) and Michelle Robinson (Tika Sumpter) in Chicago, available on DVD ($19.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($24.98 retail).

STAGECOACH: THE TEXAS JACK STORY (Cinedigm): Trace Adkins plays the real-life 19th-century outlaw Nathaniel Reed in this Western detailing his exploits, co-starring Kim Coates   and Judd Nelson, available on DVD ($14.93 retail) and Blu-ray ($19.95 retail).

“THE SYNDICATE: ALL OR NOTHING(RLJ Entertainment/Acorn): A DVD collection ($39.99 retail) of all six episodes from the 2015 season of the popular BBC One series, with Anthony Andrews and Alice Krige playing the privileged but penniless lord and lady of Hazelwood Manor, whose world is turned upside-down when their servants hit the lottery.

WAR DOGS (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): Truth is stranger – and stronger – than fiction, in screenwriter/producer/director Todd Phillips’ blistering, fact-based satire starring Jonah Hill (in a superb performance) and Miles Teller (almost as good) as buddies who luck into landing high-priced military contracts on behalf of the US Government and make a fortune – but not without unforeseen consequences. Sly, sharp and incisive, with a fine supporting cast including Ana de Armas, Kevin Pollak and producer Bradley Cooper. One of the year’s best films,  available on DVD ($28.98 retail), Blu-ray ($29.98 retail), and Ultra HD Blu-ray combo ($44.95 retail). Rated R. ****

“ZOO”: SEASON TWO (CBS DVD/Paramount): A DVD collection ($55.98 retail) of all 13 episodes from the 2016 season of the CBS series based on James Patterson’s best-selling novel, starring James Wolk as a zoologist investigating a spate of seemingly inexplicable animal attacks   throughout the world. The regular cast also includes Kristen Connolly, Nonso Anozie, Nora Arzeneder and Billy Burke.

– (Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2016, Mark Burger) HYPERLINK “”