Video Vault – Feb 22, 2017
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
DVD PICK OF THE WEEK
WAIT UNTIL DARK (Warner Archive): Audrey Hepburn nabbed her fifth and final Oscar nomination as Best Actress for this first-rate 1967 adaptation of Frederick Knott’s Broadway hit.
With husband Sam (Efrem Zimbalist Jr.) away, the recently blinded Susy Hendrix (Hepburn) is visited by three men who want something in her possession. There’s the weaselly Carlino (reliable Jack Weston), who claims to be a cop; Mike Talman (the always welcome Richard Crenna), who claims to be an old friend of Sam’s; and there’s Harry Roat Jr. “from Scarsdale” (the brilliant Alan Arkin), a devious, unhinged psychopath and the ringleader.
Thus commences a game of cat and mouse, as Susy is cajoled, coerced and threatened – without ever knowing what this terrible trio wants. But although she’s blind, she proves increasingly resourceful … while Roat proves increasingly homicidal.
The cast could scarcely be better (Lee Remick and Robert Duvall had originated the roles on Broadway), with Arkin – in one of his earliest screen roles – creating an unforgettable portrait of evil and menace. Henry Mancini’s cool score and Charles Lang’s appropriately claustrophobic cinematography retain the ambiance of the play while also opening up.
The new Blu-ray ($21.99 retail) includes retrospective documentary and theatrical trailers. Available exclusively through HYPERLINK “https://www.warnerarchive.com/”https://www.warnerarchive.com/. ***½
A BETTER PLACE (Monarch Home Entertainment): Executive producer Dennis Ho makes his feature debut as director/writer/editor of this intriguing, award-winning low-budget fantasy/thriller starring Stephen Todt as a disillusioned loner blessed (or cursed?) with a strange power to deflect any physical pain inflicted on him by transferring it to the closest relation of who’s attacking him. Not always cohesive, but Ho is a talent to watch and the cast (including Mary Ann Raemisch, Max Aria and newcomer Perry Thomas) plays it with conviction. **½
ARRIVAL (Paramount): Linguist Amy Adams is tapped by the US Government to communicate with alien beings who have suddenly landed at various points around the globe in Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi saga, which places emotion over hardware. Thoughtful and well-made, although Adams’ character is the only one to emerge in much detail, with Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker and Michael Stuhlbarg in more conventional roles. Eight Academy Award nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Production Design, Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing, available on DVD ($29.99 retail), DVD/Blu-ray combo ($39.99 retail) and 4K Ultra HD ($48.99 retail). Rated PG-13. ***
BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Ang Lee’s award-winning R-rated adaptation of Ben Fountain’s best-selling novel stars newcomer Joe Alwyn in the title role of a 19-year-old veteran whose highly publicized return home is compromised by traumatic memories of combat in Iraq. Kristen Stewart, Steve Martin, Vin Disel, Chris Tucker and Garrett Hedlund round out the cast. Despite good reviews, this stiffed at the box-office, available on DVD ($26.99 retail), DVD/Blu-ray combo ($30.99 retail) and 4K Ultra HD/3-D Blu-ray combo ($45.99 retail).
BURN COUNTRY (Samuel Goldwyn Films/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Writer/editor/director Ian Olds’ feature debut stars Dominic Rains (in an award-winning performance) as an Afghan journalist drawn into the seamy underbelly of the Northern California town where he has relocated. Melissa Leo, executive producer James Franco (in full grunge mode) and Thomas Jay Ryan also appear in this moody but often rambling melodrama, although Adam Newport-Berra’s cinematography is first-rate. **
CLANDESTINE (Candy Factory Films): This preachy, overlong (but award-winning) melodrama pits hard-working cop Nick DeMatteo (an executive producer) and special agents Janine Laino (also an executive producer) and David LaRosa (also producer/director) against the burgeoning methamphetamine racket on Long Island’s North Shore. This emphasizes credibility over action, but the characters’ domestic travails take up far too much time. Kate A. McGrath (screenwriter), Chris Ryan (co-producer), Stephanie Klein (associate producer), and a bored-looking Tom Sizemore round out an unimpressive cast. *
DEATH BECOMES HER (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): A collector’s-edition Blu-ray ($34.93 retail) of director Robert Zemeckis’ imaginative 1992 black comedy, starring Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn as long-time rivals who once vied for Bruce Willis and now for immortality – which comes with a catch (and then some!). Not always a smooth ride, but the cast plays it with zest and the Oscar-winning visual effects cinch it. Special features include retrospective documentary, vintage featurette, original trailer and more. Rated PG-13. ***
EDGE OF MARLENE (Breaking Glass Pictures): Writer/producer/director Ana Valine’s award-winning feature debut, originally titled Sitting on the Edge of Marlene and adapted from Billie Livingston’s short story The Trouble With Marlene, stars Suzanne Clement in the title role, a hard-drinking con artist who pushes herself and her teen-aged daughter (Paloma Kwiatkowski) to the breaking point. Highly theatrical but well-acted (including by Callum Keith Rennie as a sometime-cohort of Clement’s), with a vivid denouement. **½
FIVE NIGHTS IN MAINE (FilmRise/MVD Entertainment Group): Writer/producer/director Maris Curran’s award-winning debut feature stars producer David Oyelowo (typically first-rate) as a grieving widower who reflects back on his marriage (to Hani Furstenberg) while coming to terms with her embittered, terminally ill mother (Dianne Wiest). Nicely observant and fast-paced, this was a hot ticket at last year’s RiverRun International Film Festival in Winston-Salem. ***
“FROM DUSK TILL DAWN: THE SERIES” – SEASON THREE (Entertainment One): DJ Controna and Zane Holtz are back as the sibling desperado duo Seth and Richie Gecko, on the lam and battling the undead, in all 10 episodes from the 2016 season of the El Rey network series, based on executive producer/creator (and sometimes director) Robert Rodriguez’ 1996 cult hit, available on DVD ($39.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($49.99 retail) – both with bonus features.
“GIRLS”: THE COMPLETE FIFTH SEASON (HBO): Lena Dunham’s still looking for love – usually in the wrong places – in all 10 episodes from the 2016 season of the award-winning HBO comedy series created by Dunham. Peter Scolari won the Emmy Award as Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for playing Dunham’s dad, available on DVD ($24.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($34.98 retail) – both with bonus features.
JIM: THE JAMES FOLEY STORY (FilmRise/Gravitas Ventures/MVD Entertainment Group): Writer/director Brian Oakes’ first-rate feature documentary debut explores the life and career of American journalist James Foley, who was held hostage and murdered by ISIS terrorists in 2014. Moving and haunting in equal measure, and an Oscar nominee for Best Original Song (“The Empty Chair”). ***½
KISS ME, KILL ME (Embrem Entertainment): Producer/director Caspar Andreas’ award-winning, gay-themed Hollywood whodunit (billed as a “queer noir”) sees Van Hansis implicated in the murder of ex-boyfriend and reality-TV host Gale Harold. Red herrings abound in this campy, occasionally snappy, frequently gimmicky thriller with slasher overtones, boosted by the fun performances of Yolonda Ross and Jai Rodriguez as the investigating detectives, and Jackie Monahan and Allison Lane as a haughty lesbian couple. **
“THE LEVEL” (RLJ Entertainment/Acorn): This six-part 2016 ITV crime series stars Karla Crome as a police detective assigned to investigate the murder of a notorious drug kingpin (Philip Glenister) – who also happened to be an old friend and mentor – alongside an ambitious new partner (Noel Clarke) and an old colleague (Robert James-Collier). The two-disc DVD and two-disc Blu-ray each retail for $39.99, and each contains a behind-the-scenes featurette.
LIKE COTTON TWINES (RLJ Entertainment): Writer/producer/director Leila Djansi’s award-winning drama stars co-executive producer Jay Ellis as an idealistic teacher who defies religious conventions by trying to rescue one of his students (Ophelia Kelnam Dzidzornu) from being offered as a sex slave in contemporary Ghana. Sincere and well-intentioned but also subdued and somewhat by-the-numbers. **½
LITTLE SISTER (Kino Lorber): UNCSA School of Filmmaking graduate Zach Clark is the writer/producer/director of this winsome, bittersweet comedy/drama starring Addison Timlin as a novice nun who returns to Asheville before taking her final vows to reconnect with her parents (Ally Sheedy and fellow UNCSA alumnus Peter Hedges) and brother (Keith Poulson), who was disfigured while serving in Iraq. Molly Plunk and Barbara Crampton shine in smaller roles. The DVD retails for $29.95, the Blu-ray for $34.95. ***
THE WATERMELON WOMAN (First Run Features): A digitally-restored, 20th-anniversary DVD ($19.95 retail) of Cheryl Dunne’s award-winning 1996 debut feature, in which she plays a black lesbian filmmaker whose attempts to document the career of a 30s-era actress known as “the Watermelon Woman” (Lisa Marie Bronson) are complicated by a burgeoning romance with a white woman (Guinevere Turner). Fresh, spunky and fun – with Dunye’s real-life mother Irene a hoot playing herself. Great Philadelphia locations, too. ***
(Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2017, Mark Burger) HYPERLINK “mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org”email@example.com