Video Vault – Feb 14, 2018
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
PICK OF THE WEEK
AGATHA CHRISTIE’S MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (Acorn TV): No, it’s not the Oscar-winning Sidney Lumet film of 1974, nor the recent Kenneth Branagh adaptation (due shortly on home-video), but a feature-length episode from the 12th season of the long-running TV series “Christie’s Poirot,” originally broadcast in 2010, with David Suchet as Dame Agatha’s fastidious Belgian sleuth, Hercule Poirot. (The series was so popular, in fact, that Suchet played Poirot in every story featuring the detective during its run.)
Traveling aboard the titular train, Poirot is approached by odious businessman Samuel Ratchett (ever-reliable Toby Jones), who fears his life is in danger. Such fears soon prove well-founded, as Poirot is drawn into a seemingly unsolvable whodunit with a myriad of suspects, portrayed by the likes of Jessica Chastain, Barbara Hershey, Eileen Atkins, Samuel West, Hugh Bonneville, David Morrissey, and Marie-Josee Croze.
Unlike other adaptations, here Poirot is almost a pensive (but perceptive) observer, maintaining some distance from a mystery he is fated to solve. In addition, the character’s Catholicism plays a strong part in the proceedings. It’s testament to the durability of Agatha Christie, to say nothing of Suchet’s effortless turn, that screenwriter Stewart Harcourt is able to give the story fresh shading while remaining faithful to the source material.
The DVD retails for $19.99. ***
ACT & PUNISHMENT: THE PUSSY RIOT TRIALS (Cleopatra Entertainment/MVD Entertainment Group): Yevgeni Mitta’s documentary features offers an interesting glimpse into contemporary Russian culture, as it fellows the female social-activist and punk-rock group Pussy Riot, and how their rebellion ties into the country’s history of protest. Fittingly raw and ragged, and well worth a look. In Russian with English subtitles, available on DVD ($19.95 retail). ***
ALIBI (Acorn TV): This three-part 2003 mini-series stars Michael Kitchen as a timid businessman who forms an unlikely alliance with free-lance caterer Sophie Okonedo after she discovers him standing over his dead business partner (Tom Knight) after a party. Phyllis Logan plays Kitchen’s wife, who may or may not been having an affair with the dead man. Neatly plotted, well-acted (especially by Kitchen) and nicely scored (by Hal Lindes), with bursts of dark humor for good measure. The DVD retails for $34.99. ***
“ANIMAL KINGDOM”:THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): Even behind bars, matriarch Ellen Barkin lords over the Cody crime clan, in all 13 episodes (plus bonus features) from the 2017 season of the TNT series based on the award-winning 2010 Australian film, with Scott Speedman, Shawn Hatosy, Ben Robins, Jake Weary, Finn Cole and Molly Gordon among the regular cast, available on DVD ($24.98 retail).
#ARTOFFLINE (IndiePix Films): Manuel Correa’s brisk documentary, parts of which were filmed during the 8th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art, examines how the Internet has changed the reception, production, and distribution of fine art – and some say not for the better. **½
BELLE EPOQUE (Olive Films): Fernando Trueba’s 1992 art-house hit stars is set against the backdrop of the impending Spanish Civil War, with Jorge Sanz as a disspirited young soldier who woos – and wins – a comedly quartet comely sisters (Penelope Cruz, Miriam Diaz-Aroca, Ariadna Gil and Maribel Verdu). Academy Award winner for Best Foreign-Language Film. In Spanish with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail).
“BEN 10: VILLAIN TIME” (Cartoon Network): A DVD collection ($14.97 retail) of all 20 episodes from the inaugural 2017 season of the popular animated fantasy children’s series (this being the fifth “incarnation”), detailing the wild adventures of an alien-powered kid hero, with Tara Strong voicing the title character.
“BLAZE AND THE MONSTER MACHINES: HEROES OF AXLE CITY” (Nickelodeon/Paramount): A DVD collection ($10.99 retail) of four episodes from the animated Nickelodeon children’s series following the high-octane adventures of the titular monster truck (voiced by Nolan North) and his speed-wheeling pals.
“BROAD CITY”: SEASON 4 (Comedy Central Home Entertainment/Paramount): Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson are back on the prowl in the Big Apple, looking for love in all the wrong places, in all 10 episodes from the 2017 Comedy Central series, which they originally created as a web series. Guest stars include Steve Buscemi, Jane Curtin, Peri Gilpin, Fran Drescher, Sandra Bernhard, Shania Twain, Mike Birbiglia, and RuPaul. The DVD ($26.98 retail) includes featurettes and more.
CROOKED HOUSE (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): In this adaptation of Agatha Christie’s 1941 novel, Max Irons plays a private investigator who delves into the recent death of a wealthy patriarch at the behest of his ex-lover and the dead man’s granddaughter (Stefanie Martini). Terence Stamp ably represents Scotland Yard on the case, while a star-studded list of suspects includes Glenn Close, Gillian Anderson, Christina Hendricks, Julian Sands, and young scene-stealer Honor Kneafsey. Elegant period detail dominates this respectable but unremarkable whodunit. Rated PG-13. **
“DUCKMAN”: THE COMPLETE SERIES (CBS DVD/Paramount): Jason Alexander provides the voice for the title character, an acerbic and obnoxious private eye (private duck?) who struggles to balance career and family, in all 71 episodes from the entire 1994-’97 run of the Emmy-nominated comedy series originally broadcast on USA Network (and originally titled “Duckman: Private Dick, Family Man”), also boasting the vocal talents of Nancy Travis, Gregg Berger, Elizabeth Daily, Dweezil Zappa, and Dana Hill (in her final appearance). The 10-DVD collection, replete with bonus features, retails for $27.99.
EXTRAORDINARY MISSION (Crimson Forest Films/Cinedigm): Xuan Huang plays an undercover cop who tries to destroy a powerful drug cartel from within in this action blowout directed by Alan Mak and Anthony Pun. In Mandarin with English subtitles, available on DVD ($14.93 retail) and Blu-ray ($19.97 retail).
“THE GUARDIAN”: THE COMPLETE SERIES (CBS DVD/Paramount): Legal eagle Simon Baker lends his expertise to the less fortunate after a drug bust, in all 67 episodes from the entire 2001-04 run of the award-winning CBS drama series created by David Hollander, with Alan Rosenberg, Raphael Sbarge, Wendy Muniz, and reliable Dabney Coleman rounding out the regular cast. Farrah Fawcett reaped an Emmy nomination as Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series in 2003. The 18-DVD collection retails for $39.99.
“THE JACKIE GLEASON SHOW IN COLOR” (Time Life): A DVD compilation ($9.95 retail) of four never-before-released episodes from Jackie Gleason’s Emmy-winning CBS variety series which ran from 1966-’70, featuring guest appearances by Phil Silvers, Milton Berle, Nipsey Russell, George Carlin, Red Buttons, Florence Henderson, Sheila MacRae, Jane Kean, and (of course) Art Carney.
OPERA (Scorpion Releasing): Dario Argento’s 1987 shocker sees the Parma Opera House stalked by a masked killer. Argento’s penchant for imaginative murders and trademark visual virtuosity is on full display (courtesy Ronnie Taylor’s sumptuous cinematography), replete with a pounding soundtrack, but – like many of his films – the narrative foundation is shaky at times. The cast includes Ian Charleson (in his final feature), Cristina Marsillach, Urbano Barberini, William McNamara (in his screen debut), and one-time Argento muse Daria Nicolodi (in her final collaboration with the filmmaker to date). The special-edition Blu-ray ($24.95 retail) includes retrospective interviews, trailers, and more. **½
THE RED SQUIRREL (Olive Films): Writer/director Julio Medem’s award-winning comedy/drama (originally titled La ardilla roja) stars Emma Suarez and Nancho Novo as a pair of misfits who literally fall into each other’s lives – and into a romantic relationship. In Spanish and German with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail).
“SEIJUN SUZUZI: THE EARLY YEARS, VOL. 1 – SEIJUN RISING: THE YOUTH MOVIES” (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment): A limited-edition, four-disc DVD/Blu-ray combo ($69.95 retail) of five early features made by the controversial, award-winning auteur Seijun Suzuki (1923-2017): 1958’s The Boy Who Came Back (Fumihazushita hari), 1961’s The Wind-of-Youth Group Crosses the Mountain Pass (Toge o wataru wakai kaze), 1962’s Teenage Yakuza (Hai tiin yakuza), and a pair of screen adaptations of Toko Kon novels: 1963’s The Incorrigible (Akutaro) and 1965’s Born Under Crossed Stars (Akutaro-den: warui hoshi no shita demo). In Japanese with English subtitles.
“SHIMMER AND SHINE: BEYOND THE RAINBOW FALLS” (Nickelodeon/Paramount): A DVD collection ($10.99 retail) of seven episodes from the animated Nickelodeon children’s series about the misadventures of the titular twin genies (voiced by Eva Belli and Isabella Crovetti) and their best friend Leah (voiced by Alina Foley).
“WALLFLOWERS” : SEASONS 1 & 2 (Dekkoo Films/TLA Releasing): The title tells all in this DVD collection ($24.99 retail) of all 12 episodes from the 2016 and ’17 seasons of the award-winning comedy web series about singles in New York City looking for love, with Sarah Saltzberg, Gibson Frazier, Christianne Tisdale, Susan Louise O’Connor and Ricky Dunlop heading the ensemble cast.
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2018, Mark Burger)