Video Vault – Dec 28, 2016
DVD PICK OF THE WEEK
THE SEARCH FOR WENG WENG (Wild Eye Releasing): Documentary filmmaker Andrew Leavold’s 2007 feature debut makes its DVD debut ($14.95 retail) in a special edition that includes audio commentary, extended and deleted scenes, music videos and more.
The subject of Leavold’s cinematic obsession is Weng Weng, a diminutive Filipino actor who became an unexpected star thanks to a series of low-rent, home-grown action films that exploited his physical stature, including the James Bond rip-off For Y’ur Eyes Only and Agent 00 (1981).
Leavold’s quest for Weng Weng’s whereabouts becomes a comprehensive and informative overview of the heyday of the film industry in the Philippines, as he encounters and interviews actors, filmmakers and historians who knew and worked with Weng Weng – culminating in an audience with Imelda Marcos … on her birthday, no less! (Even she was a fan of Weng Weng.)
Deliriously entertaining at times, The Search for Weng Weng is tinged with tragic overtones, as the collapse of the Filipino film industry paralleled the collapse of Weng Weng’s career, leaving him impoverished and all but forgotten. Thanks to Leavold’s film, this cult star’s unique legacy has been celebrated in first-rate fashion. ***½
ARGENTINA (First Run Features): Acclaimed filmmaker Carlos Saura pays homage to the culture and traditions of Argentina through its musical heritage in this feature documentary (originally titled Zonda: folclore argentino). In Spanish with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.95 retail).
BOONVILLE REDEMPTION (Engine 15 Media Group/MVD Entertainment Group): A sentimental, slow-moving, faith-based Western melodrama starring talented newcomer Emily Hoffman as a disillusioned teenager treated badly because she was born out of wedlock. Also on hand: Diane Ladd, Richard Tyson, Robert Hays, Bradley Gregg, Edward Asner (adding some third-act bluster) and executive producer Pat Boone, who also croons the end-credit tune. **
BRAZIL (Olive Films): Not to be confused with Terry Gilliam’s ’80s Orwellian satire, this 1944 musical comedy (also known as Stars and Guitars) pairs Latin superstar Tito Guizar with Virginia Bruce in Rio, with Edward Everett Horton, Robert Livingston, Veloz & Yolanda, and Roy Rogers in support. Three Oscar nominations: Best Sound, Best Musical Score, and Best Song (“Rio de Janeiro). The DVD retails for $19.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95.
“BRITAIN’S BLOODY CROWN” (RLJ Entertainment/Acorn): Award-winning journalist and historian Dan Jones hosts this four-part documentary series that explores the War of the Roses, the 30-year struggle between the rival Houses of Lancaster and York to claim the British monarchy, available in a two-DVD collection ($39.99 retail).
GREATER (Well Go USA Entertainment): Christopher Severino plays real-life college football player Brandon Burlsworth in this PG-rated, faith-based dramatization of his life and career, tragically cut short at age 22 by a fatal car crash, available on DVD ($24.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.98 retail).
J’ACCUSE! (Olive Films): Abel Gance, who directed a silent 1919 version of the same story, fashioned this 1938 “remake,” a cautionary anti-war parable starring Victor Francen as a young soldier who tries to construct an invulnerable armor during World War I. In French with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail).
JENNIFER LOPEZ: DANCE AGAIN (The Weinstein Company/Anchor Bay Entertainment): The title tells all in this music documentary following the erstwhile J-Lo as she embarks on her first worldwide concert tour, encompassing 65 cities, five continents and over 150 wardrobe changes, available on DVD ($19.98 retail).
LULU BELLE (Olive Films): Dorothy Lamour smoulders in the title role of a seductive nightclub chanteuse in this 1948 melodrama based on Charles MacArthur and Edward Sheldon’s play, with George Montgomery, Albert Dekker, Otto Kruger and Glenda Farrell in support, available on DVD ($24.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail).
MACBETH (Olive Films): Producer/director Orson Welles plays the title role and Jeanette Nolan (in her screen debut) his Lady Macbeth in this 1948 adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic, dubbed by some as “Bard on a budget,” because it was produced by Republic Pictures in an attempt to upgrade the studio’s image. Not without its flaws but well worth a look, with impressionistic set design (all the better to keep the budget down) and a polished supporting cast including Dan O’Herlihy, Roddy McDowall, Edgar Barrier, Alan Napier and Erskine Sanders. Both the “Olive Signature” DVD ($34.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) include both the 1948 and 1950 release versions, audio commentary, retrospective interviews, and more. ***
THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Denzel Washington saddles up alongside Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Byung-Hun Lee, Martin Sensmeier and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo against greedy (but unimposing) land baron Peter Sarsgaard in Antoine Fuqua’s action-packed by simple-minded remake of the 1960 Western classic, itself inspired by Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai (1954), available on DVD ($30.99 retail), Blu-ray ($34.99 retail) and 4K Ultra HD combo ($45.99 retail). Rated PG-13. **
MAN OF THE WORLD: THE PETER GREEN STORY (Henry Hardaway Organization/MVD Entertainment Group): Leisurely pacing hampers this otherwise engrossing and sympathetic portrait of rock guitarist Peter Green (who fronted the original Fleetwood Mac), whose life and career were derailed by substance abuse and mental illness. Green’s brothers are interviewed along with such luminaries as Mick Fleetwood, Carlos Santana, John McVie, Noel Gallagher and John Mayall. **½
THE MAN WHO SKIED DOWN EVEREST (The Film Detective): The title tells all in the fast-moving, expectedly picturesque, Oscar-winning 1975 documentary feature following Yuichiro Miura’s attempt to ski down Mount Everest in 1970, narrated by Douglas Rain (HAL in 2001), and available on DVD ($14.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($19.99 retail). Rated G. ***
A MONSTER WITH A THOUSAND HEADS (Music Box Films Home Entertainment): There are echoes of John Q (2002) in director Rodrigo Pla’s topical and rousing drama (originally titled Un Monstruo de mil Cabezas), as Jana Raluy (first-rate) takes matters into her own hands when ailing husband Daniel Cubillo is denied medical care by his insurance carrier. In Spanish with English subtitles, available on DVD ($29.95 retail). ***
OKINAWA: THE AFTERBURN (First Run Features): Director John Junkerman’s documentary adaptation of Koji Kobayashi’s non-fiction book examines the 1945 Battle of Okinawa from both American and Japanese/military and civilian perspectives, as well as the controversial post-World War II installation of a US military base. In English and Japanese with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.95 retail).
PEGGY GUGGENHEIM: ART ADDICT (Music Box Films Home Entertainment): Lisa Immordino Vreeland follows her 2011 documentary Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel (about her grandmother-in-law) with this documentary tracing the life of art patron Peggy Guggenheim (1898-1979), who possessed – and exhibited – one of the foremost art collections in the world during the 20th century, available on DVD ($29.95 retail).
PIMPERNEL SMITH (Olive Films): Having played The Scarlet Pimpernel in 1934, producer/director Leslie Howard took a page from the Baroness Orczy’s classic tale by producing, directing and starring in this award-winning 1941 adventure (released in the US as Mr. V) as an eccentric but fearless archaeologist who secretly aids the escape of refugees in pre-World War II Germany, available on DVD ($24.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail).
STAR PAWS (Ruthless Studios/MVD Entertainment Group): Writer/editor/director Evan Tramel’s cheap, uninspired and utterly dreadful kiddie flick pits cats against dogs as they race back in time to the Jurassic era in search of a magic bone. William McNamara, Bobby Catalano, Jason Pascoe and April Rose provide voice-overs. A waste of time for any age. Zero stars.
SULLY (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): Tom Hanks and producer/director Clint Eastwood deliver the goods in this compelling, convincing adaptation of Chesley Sullenberger and Jeffrey Zaslow’s book Highest Duty, dramatizing the events surrounding the “Miracle on the Hudson” when a passenger jet crashed into the frigid waters. One of 2016’s best films, available on two-disc DVD ($28.98 retail), DVD/Blu-ray combo ($35.99 retail) and 4K Ultra HD combo ($44.95 retail). Rated PG-13. ****
TAB HUNTER CONFIDENTIAL (FilmRise): Based on the Tab Hunter’s best-selling autobiography, editor/producer/director Jeffrey Schwarz’s award-winning documentary offers a comprehensive and compassionate portrait of the ’50s heartthrob (born Arthur Gelin) whose career was repeatedly endangered by the threat of his homosexuality being revealed. John Waters (who directed Hunter in Hairspray), Robert Wagner, George Takei, Debbie Reynolds, Connie Stevens and Clint Eastwood are among the celebrities interviewed, but it’s Hunter’s eloquence and honesty that truly shine through. ***½
TO JOEY, WITH LOVE (Provident Films/Hickory Films/Anchor Bay Entertainment): Subtitled “A Story of Life, Love & Hope That Never Dies,” this feature documentary examines the relationship between the music duo Joey + Rory, and the former’s struggle with cancer. Rory Feek also wrote, filmed, directed and co-edited the film, available on DVD ($22.98 retail).
(Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2016, Mark Burger) HYPERLINK “mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org”email@example.com