Video Vault – Dec 27, 2017
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
PICK OF THE WEEK
WIND RIVER (LionsGate): Writer/director Taylor Sheridan’s award-winning thriller, based on actual events, is a little bit of everything: Western, mystery, film noir, and morality play – populated by believable and credible characters who develop over the course of the narrative. That it’s a little ragged around the edges only enhances its rough-hewn ambiance.
Renner’s Cory Lambert is a brooding, rugged loner in the John Wayne mold, a veteran wildlife tracker paired with rookie FBI agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) to investigate a murder in a remote sector of an Arapaho reservation.
As Lambert and Banner sift through the clues and contend with bureaucratic roadblocks, they discover that this is only the latest in a series of disappearances or murders in the region – one of which had serious repercussions for Lambert.
Augmented by Ben Richardson’s sweeping cinematography and a moody Nick Cave/Warren Ellis score, Wind River is a first-rate yarn, with Renner and Olsen in top form. It’s also nice to see them play vulnerable and nuanced characters as opposed to the superheroes they portray in the Marvel universe. Gil Birmingham, Jon Bernthal, Apesanahkwat, Tantoo Cardinal, Martin Sensmeir and reliable Graham Greene round out a fine cast.
Both the DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($34.99 retail) include deleted scenes and video gallery. Rated R. ***½
ALL SAINTS (AFFIRM Films/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): John Corbett stars in this fact- and faith-based, PG-rated drama (originally titled Field of Saints) as an idealistic clergyman who enlists the aid of Asian refugees to help save a floundering Tennessee church, with Cara Buono, David Keith, Chondra Pierce, Nelson Lee, Myles Moore, and Corbett’s former “Northern Exposure” co-star in support, available on DVD ($30.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($34.99 retail).
ANGRY INUK (Bond 360/Film Movement): Writer/producer/director Alethea Arnaquq-Baril’s award-winning documentary feature (originally titled Inuit enfadado) explores the culture of the Inuit people of the Canadian Arctic, who are dependent on seal-hunting for their living, which has made them a target of environmental conservationists. In Inuktitut with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.95 retail).
ARCHITECTS OF DENIAL (Omnibus Entertainment/Film Movement): Producer/director David Lee George’s feature documentary debut examines the horrific history of the Armenian genocide and its ongoing impact throughout the world. In English, Armenian and Turkish with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.95 retail).
BLOOD MONEY (LionsGate): Director Lucky McKee’s R-rated, ersatz updating of Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) sees three friends (Ellar Coltrane, Willa Fitzgerald and Jacob Artist) pitted against ruthless criminal John Cusack in a dangerous quest for stolen money, available on DVD ($19.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($21.99 retail).
BODY ELECTRIC (Breaking Glass Pictures): Writer/producer/director Marcelo Caetano’s award-winning debut feature (originally titled Corpo Eletrico) stars Kelner Macedo (in his feature debut) as a free-spirited gay man finding his place in the world. In Portuguese with English subtitles, available on DVD ($19.99 retail).
COFFEE HOUSE CHRONICLES: THE MOVIE (Dekkoo Films/TLA Releasing): Writer/producer/editor/director Stewart Wade makes his feature debut with this nine-part anthology, based on the popular web series, dramatizing the interactions of a group of LGBT people seeking love and acceptance, featuring an ensemble cast including series regilars Mark Cirillo, Cameron Ferguson, Drew Droege and Darryl Stephens, available on DVD ($24.99 retail).
“THE COMPLETE MONTEREY POP FESTIVAL” (The Criterion Collection): A collector’s-edition Blu-ray ($69.95 retail) of three acclaimed music documentaries by renowned, Oscar-winning filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker, each focusing on the legendary 1967 rock concert: Monterey Pop (1968), Jimi Plays Monterey (1986), and the 1986 short Shake!: Otis at Monterey. A bevy of special features includes audio commentaries, alternate soundtracks, retrospective and vintage interviews, outtake performances, trailers and more.
DAWSON CITY: FROZEN IN TIME (Kino Lorber): Bill Morrison’s award-winning documentary feature details the unexpected discovery of a treasure trove of silent films buried in a sub-arctic swimming pool located in the titular Yukon Territory town in the late 1970s, available on DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($34.95 retail).
“DOC MARTIN”: SERIES 8 (Acorn TV): Martin Clunes returns as the quirky, acerbic physician in all eight episodes from the 2017 season of the popular, award-winning British comedy series, co-starring Eileen Atkins and Caroline Catz, with guest appearances by Sigourney Weaver and Caroline Quentin, available on DVD and Blu-ray (each $39.99 retail).
“DRAWN TOGETHER”: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION (Comedy Central Home Entertainment/Paramount): The title tells all in this seven-DVD collection ($26.97 retail) of all 38 episodes from the entire 2004-’07 run of the award-winning Comedy Central animated series that gleefully mocked reality-TV and situation comedies, with special features including audio commentary, deleted scenes, karaoke sing-along, the 2010 feature The Drawn Together Movie!, and more.
“GEORGE GENTLY”: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION (Acorn TV): Martin Shaw plays the title role of the ’60s-era police inspector in this self-explanatory collection of all 25 feature-length episodes from the 2007-’17 seasons of the popular, award-winning BBC mystery series (originally titled “Inspector George Gently”), based on Alan Hunter’s best-selling novels, broadcast in the US by PBS, with Lee Ingleby as Gently’s partner John Bacchus, and guest appearances by Richard Armitage, Jemma Redgrave, Warren Clarke, Eamonn Walker, Phil Davis, Helen Baxendale and Kevin Whately, available in a 25-disc DVD set and a 13-disc Blu-ray set (each retailing for $149.99) – both boasting bonus features.
HOME AGAIN (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment): Reese Witherspoon headlines this PG-13-rated romantic comedy as a newly separated mother trying to put her life back together again. The feature debut of writer/director Hallie Myers-Shyer, whose mother Nancy Myers produced and whose father Charles Shyer served as second unit director, available on DVD ($29.98 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($34.98 retail), both boasting audio commentary.
“INDIEPIX FESTIVAL FAVORITES, VOLUME 1” (IndiePix Films): The first in a series of acclaimed, award-winning films available on DVD ($59.95 retail): Writer/director Leah Meyerhoff’s 2014 debut feature I Believe in Unicorns, Noaz Deshe’s Swahili-language 2014 narrative feature debut White Shadow (rated PG-13), and Shirin Nehat’s 2009 Persian-language debut feature Women Without Men (originally titled Zanan-e bedun-e marden), based on Shahrnush Parsipur’s best-selling novel.
LETTER FROM AN UNKNOWN WOMAN (Olive Films): Max Ophuls’ vintage 1948 melodrama, based on Stefan Zweig’s novella, stars Louis Jourdan as a dashing, hedonistic concert pianist forced to confront his past when he receives the titular missive from a lovestruck admirer (Joan Fontaine) whom he wooed years before. The limited-edition “Olive Signature” Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) includes audio commentary, featurettes and more. ***
MANOLO: THE BOY WHO MADE SHOES FOR LIZARDS (Music Box Films Home Entertainment): This feature documentary explores the life and career of renowned shoe designer Manolo Blahnik, whose star-studded clientele list includes Naomi Campbell, Karlie Kloss, Anna Winotur and Rhianna, available on DVD ($29.95 retail).
MAURIZIO CATTELAN: BE RIGHT BACK (Film Movement): Writer/producer/director Maura Axelrod’s entertaining documentary feature debut chronicles the life and career of artist and provocateur Maurizio Cattelan, for whom gaining attention and notoriety is an art form in itself. Reminiscent of Orson Welles’ F for Fake (1973) but smoother, sharper and funnier – with a wild third-act twist. In English and Italian with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.95 retail). ***
NUTCRACKER: THE MOTION PICTURE (Olive Films): Director Carroll Ballard’s G-rated 1986 adaptation of the classic holiday favorite, conceived by Kent Stovall and Maurice Sendak, featuring the Pacific Northwest Ballet and Tchaikovsky’s score as performed by the London Symphony Orchestra, available on DVD ($14.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail).
THE PULITZER AT 100 (First Run Features): Kirk Simon’s informative, well-paced, and very entertaining documentary feature traces the history of the Pulitzer Prize (and its namesake, Joseph Pulitzer), featuring interviews with previous recipients and such luminaries as John Lithgow, Helen Mirren, Natalie Portman, Liev Schreiber and Martin Scorsese, available on DVD ($24.95 retail). ***½
STRONGER (LionsGate): Producer Jake Gyllenhaal plays blue-collar Bostonian Jeff Bauman, who underwent an arduous recovery after losing his legs during the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing in this adaptation of the non-fiction best-seller by Bauman and Bret Witter, with Tatiana Maslany as Jeff’s ex-girlfriend, Miranda Richardson and Clancy Brown as his divorced parents, and Carlos Sanz as the man who aided Jeff immediately after the incident. Inspiring without being maudlin, and compassionately directed by UNCSA School of Filmmaking graduate David Gordon Green – available on DVD ($19.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($24.98 retail). Rated R. ***
THE TRIP TO SPAIN (Shout! Factory): With directorial Michael Winterbottom back at the helm, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon embark on their latest culinary and cultural adventure, following The Trip (2010) and The Trip to Italy (2013). Again trotting out their patented celebrity impressions and again exhibiting considerable on-screen chemistry, this may be the funniest Trip yet – with a splendid ending that all but begs for yet another installment. The DVD retails for $14.98, the Blu-ray for $24.97. ***
THE WAR SHOW (Bond 360/Film Movement): Writer/directors Andreas Dalsgaard and first-timer Obaidah Zytoon’s award-winning feature documentary follows Zytoon (who narrates), a popular radio host whose tireless protests against the corrupt political regime in Syria resulted in a civil war with unexpected and far-reaching consequences she and her fellow activists could not have foreseen. In Arabic in English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.95 retail).
WHISKY GALORE! (Arrow Films/MVD Entertainment Group): James Cosmo, Eddie Izzard, Sean Biggerstaff, Ellie Kendrick, Gregor Fisher and the late Tim Pigott-Smith star in director Giles Mackinnon’s comedy about the residents of a Scottish coastal town banding together to “liberate” bottled spirits from a sinking ship during World War II, a remake of the 1949 Ealing Studios farce based on Compton MacKenzie’s best-selling (and fact-based) novel, available on DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail).
THE WHITE KING (Omnibus Entertainment/Film Movement): Husband-and-wife screenwriter/producer/directors Jorg Tittel and Alex Helfrecht’s debut feature, an adaptation of Gyorgy Dragoman’s award-winning, international best-seller, is set in an oppressive dystopian society as seen through the eyes of impressionable youngster Lorenzo Allchurch (in an impressive screen debut). Uneven in spots but acted with conviction by Fiona Shaw, Agyness Deyn, Greta Scacchi, Ross Partridge, and the always-welcome Jonathan Pryce. **½
WOLF WARRIOR II (Well Go USA Entertainment): Director/star Wu Jing reprises the title role of the lethal Chinese operative in this sequel to the award-winning 2015 blockbuster (originally titled Zhan lang), here defending medical aid workers in South Africa from a bloodthirsty band of mercenaries (led by Frank Grillo’s “Big Daddy”). In French and Mandarin with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.98 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($29.98 retail).
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2017, Mark Burger)