Video Vault – Feb 21, 2018
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
PICK OF THE WEEK
AIDA’S SECRETS (Music Box Films Home Entertainment): First-time filmmakers Alon and Shaul Schwarz’s auspicious, award-winning feature documentary unfolds like a detective story, only this is real life and the story about real people.
One is Izak Szewlewicz, who was born in Bergen-Belsen after the former concentration camp had been turned into a displacement camp at the end of World War II. The other is his younger (by 10 months) brother Shepsel. Izak was given to foster parents in Israel, Shepsel (or “Shep”) immigrated to Canada with his father. Neither knew the other existed, a secret kept by the family – including the filmmakers, who are related to Izak – for decades.
At long last Izak and Shepsel are reunited (in a scene that will reduce many to tears), yet in many ways the story is just beginning, as Shepsel’s reunion with their mother, Aida Zadadsinska, who lives in a nursing home in Canada (mere hours from him), creates still more mysteries regarding the brothers’ past – to say nothing of Aida’s.
Fascinating and moving in equal measure, Aida’s Secrets is an intimate exploration of family and fate, replete with both tragedy and triumph … as well as questions that will likely never be answered.
The DVD ($29.95 retail) includes audio commentary and other bonus features. In English and Hebrew with English subtitles. ***½
THE ADVENTURERS (Well Go USA Entertainment): Fresh out of prison, master thief Andy Lau (also a producer) teams up with Tony Yang and Shu Qi for one more big score – all under the watchful eye of veteran detective and old nemesis Jean Reno. Originally titled Xia dao lian meng, this colorful, high-concept action romp is essentially a remake of John Woo’s Once a Thief (also produced by Terence Chang), with sleek cinematography by Shane Hurlbut and Tuomas Kantelinen’s score, which has a distinctly “James Bondian” flourish. In English, French, Chinese and Russian with English subtitles, available on a DVD/Blu-ray combo ($29.98 retail). **½
BROTHERHOOD OF BLADES II: THE INFERNAL BATTLEFIELD (Well Go USA Entertainment): Director Lu Yang and leading man Chang Chen reunite for this award-winning sequel (originally titled Xiu chun dao II: xiu luo zhan chang) to their 2014 hit, with Chen as an imperial guard during the Ming dynasty bent on proving his innocence after being betrayed by his partners. In Chinese with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.98 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($29.98 retail).
CHARLEY CHASE: AT HAL ROACH – THE TALKIES, VOLUME ONE 1930-’31 (The Sprocket Vault): A self-explanatory two-DVD selection ($34.99 retail) of 18 comedy shorts produced by Hal Roach and headlining legendary screen funnyman Charley Chase (1893-1940), including such favorites as The Real McCoy, Whispering Whoopee, All Teed Up, Fifty Million Husbands, The Pip from Pittsburg(h), Rough Seas, Thundering Tenors, What a Bozo! and more, plus audio commentary and poster and stills gallery.
THE COVERED WAGON (Kino Classics): Director James Cruze’s award-winning, silent 1923 adaptation of Emerson Hough’s novel dramatizes the perilous journey of wagon-train pioneers to settle Oregon during the westward expansion, featuring J. Warren Kerrigan, Lois Wilson, Tully Marshall and Alan Hale. Among the first big-budget Western features, this was a box-office smash in its day. Both the DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) include audio commentary, booklet essay, Wurlitzer Organ score by Gaylord Carter, and bonus sound short The Pie-covered Wagon (1932) starring Shirley Temple.
THE DIABOLICAL DR. Z (Redemption/Kino Lorber): Antonio Jimenez Escribano plays the title role in indefatigable Z-grade auteur Jess Franco’s 1966 shocker (originally titled Miss Muerte and also released as Dans les griffes du maniaque), with Mabel Karr as the good/bad/mad doctor’s equally unhinged daughter, seeking revenge against those who discredited Dad. In French with English subtitles, or you can watch the English dub. The DVD retails for $19.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95 – each replete with audio commentary by author/historian Tim Lucas and original trailer.
“DROPPING THE SOAP”: THE COMPLETE SERIES (Dekkoo Films/TLA Releasing): The behind-the-scenes goings-on of a long-running soap opera forms the backdrop of this comedy series whose ensemble cast includes creators Paul Witten and Kate Mines, Suzanne Friedline, Michael McKiddy, and Jane Lynch (Emmy winner as Outstanding Actress in a Short Form Comedy or Drama Series). The DVD ($24.99 retail) includes all 10 episodes from the entire 2015 series run.
ELEVATOR TO THE GALLOWS (The Criterion Collection): Louis Malle’s award-winning 1958 debut feature (originally titled Ascenseur pour l’echafaud and also released as Lift to the Scaffold), based on Jean Calef’s novel, stars Jeanne Moreau and Maurice Ronet as illicit lovers whose plot to kill her husband (Jean Wall) goes awry … while police detective Lino Ventura waits in the wings. In French with English subtitles, available on special-edition DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($39.95 retail), each replete with bonus features including archival and retrospective interviews, bonus footage and more.
HEDGEHOGS (LionsGate): Originally titled Bobby the Hedgehog, this PG-rated animated comedy sees a mischievous hedgehog (voiced by Anthony Padilla) embarking on a journey to the big city, accompanied by a bumbling pigeon (voiced by Jon Heder), with Chevy Chase, Jean McAllister, Ian Hecox, and Kari Wahlgren voicing other characters. The DVD retails for $19.98.
“HEY ARNOLD!: THE JUNGLE MOVIE” (Nickelodeon/Paramount): Mason Vale Cotton voices the title character in this feature-length, animated children’s adventure that picks up right where the award-winning Nickelodeon series (1996-2004) left off, available on DVD ($13.99 retail).
IT TAKES FROM WITHIN (First Run Features): Writer/director Lee Eubanks’ debut feature stars James Feagin (his second film) and Kristin Duarte (her first) as a man and woman attending a burial in rural Texas. Evocative, elusive and highly experimental (in the David Lynch vein), with mood dominating the proceedings. Not entirely cohesive or coherent – and not for all tastes — but it’s certainly different. **½
LINE 41 (Film Movement): Writer/producer/director Tanja Cumings’ documentary feature (originally titled Linie 41) follows Holocaust survivor Natan Grossman, who returns to the former Lodz Ghetto in Poland to uncover what happened to his brother, who vanished in 1942, while juxtaposing his search for answers with that of Jens-Jurgen Venyzki, son of the former Nazi Head Mayor of Lodz. A sobering, thoughtful parable of remembrance and reconciliation. The title refers to the streetcar that still runs through Lodz to this day. In German and Polish with English subtitles. ***
PREEXISTING CONDITIONS (Slasher Video/Martini Entertainment/Olive Films): Writer/director Brian Dorton’s farcical follow-up to Trashology (2012) reunites Dorton with Douglas Conner and Gercia Horn for another round of lowbrow, low-budget mania inspired by the DIY indie comedies pioneered by John Waters in the ’70s, with a further installment (An Extremely Uncommon Set of Circumstances) in development, available on DVD ($14.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($19.95), both boasting bonus features.
PROFESSOR MARSTON AND THE WONDER WOMEN (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Writer/director Angela Robinson’s fact-based, R-rated drama stars Luke Evans in the title role of Dr. William Moulton Martson, the Harvard psychologist whose relationship with wife Rebecca Hall and lover Bella Heathcoate informed his creation of the superhero Wonder Woman in 1941, available on DVD ($25.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($26.99 retail), each replete with special features.
RISE OF THE FOOTSOLDIER PART II (LionsGate): Ricci Harnett makes his feature debut as writer/director while reprising his role as real-life London hoodlum Carlton Leach (one of the film’s executive producers) in this violent but routine follow-up (originally titled Reign of the General) to the fact-based 2007 gangster saga, with the third installment released in the United Kingdom last year. Rated R. *½
THE SWORD AND THE CLAW (AGFA/MVD Entertainment Group): Natuk Baytan’s 1975 Turkish-language martial-arts thriller (originally titled Kilic Aslan and also released as Lion Man) stars “Steve Arkin” (Cuneyt Arkin) as a warrior who wages war against those who years before murdered his family and cut off his hands. The Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) also includes the 1978 Korean martial-arts blow-out Brawl Busters (originally titled Sa-dae-tong-iue-moon and also released as Dragon from Shaolin).
“WAR OF THE WORLDS”: THE COMPLETE SERIES (CBS DVD/Paramount): The title tells all in this 11-DVD collection ($27.99 retail) of all 43 episodes from the entire 1988-’90 run of the syndicated sci-fi series based on H.G. Wells’ classic novel, in which humans mount a resistance movement to combat an alien invasion of Earth, with the regular cast including Jared Martin, Lynda Mason Green, Richard Chaves, Philip Akin, Rachel Blanchard, and Adrian Paul.
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2018, Mark Burger)