Video Vault – Feb 28, 2018
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
PICK OF THE WEEK
TOM JONES (The Criterion Collection): With the Oscars looming, it’s time to look back at this modestly budgeted 1963 comedy that surprised many – especially on these shores – by winning four Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director (Tony Richardson), Best Adapted Screenplay (John Osborne), and Best Original Score (John Addison).
Based on the classic 1749 Henry Fielding novel The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling – albeit considerably embroidered – this bawdy and bubbly romp follows the misadventures of the title character (Albert Finney in a star-making turn), an irrepressible rogue who woos his way across the English countryside, setting ladies’ hearts aflutter and sending up the staid conventions of the day with gleeful abandon.
Susannah York is luminous as Sophie Western, the principal object of Tom’s affections, although her father (Hugh Griffith) and aunt (Edith Evans) considerable him unsuitable since he’s a bastard. Eventually, all’s well that ends well – though not without some rollicking complications along the way.
Oscar nominations went to Finney (Best Actor), Griffith (Best Supporting Actor), Best Art Direction/Set Decoration (color), and, in an Academy rarity, Joyce Redman, Diane Cilento and Evans were all nominated as Best Supporting Actress. Others of note in the cast are David Warner (his screen debut), Lynn Redgrave (her screen debut), Joan Greenwood, David Tomlinson, Rachel Kempson (Redgrave’s real-life mother), Wilfrid Lawson, Jack MacGowran, and Freda Jackson.
Both the DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) include the theatrical version and the director’s (shorter) cut, archival and retrospective interviews, and more. ***½
THE AFTERMATH (VCI Entertainment/MVD Entertainment Group): Writer/producer/editor/director Steve Barkett’s debut feature casts him as an astronaut who returns to a post-apocalyptic Earth, where he battles mutants and survivalists while trying to forge a hopeful future. Filmed in 1978 but not released until 1982, this bona-fide guilty pleasure was clearly made with affection, if not always pristine inspiration, but definitely has its low-rent charms. Sid Haig plays (what else?) the baddie, Lynne Margulies the love interest, and Barkett’s real-life son Christopher (in his screen debut) a wayward orphan … plus Forrest J. Ackerman shows up as Earth’s last historian, and you can hear Dick Miller’s voice on tape! The special-edition DVD/Blu-ray combo ($29.95 retail) includes audio commentary and more. **
A BAD MOMS CHRISTMAS (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, Kathryn Hahn, Jay Hernandez and Wanda Sykes reunite with writer/directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore to ring in the holiday season in this R-rated follow-up to the hit 2016 comedy, with Susan Sarandon, Christine Baranski, Cheryl Hines, Peter Gallagher and Justin Hartley joining in the matriarchal merriment, available on DVD ($29.98 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($34.98 retail), each boasting bonus features.
D.O.A.: A RITE OF PASSAGE (MVD Rewind/MVD Entertainment Group): A collector’s-edition DVD/Blu-ray combo ($39.95 retail) of Lech Kowalski’s seminal 1980 feature documentary, tracing the history of the punk-rock movement as it follows the Sex Pistols on their first (and only) US tour, which ended with the group breaking up, as well as live performances by The Dead Boys, Generation X (with Billy Idol), The Rich Kids, and others. Special features include the feature-length documentary Dead on Arrival: The Punk Documentary That Almost Never Was, 12-page cooklet, original trailer, and more.
DARKEST HOUR (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment): Gary Oldman’s towering, Oscar-nominated (Best Actor) turn as Winston Churchill dominates this intelligent and well-mounted (if unsurprising) historical drama, set against the backdrop of his first election as Britain’s prime minister, as World War II looms. The sturdy supporting cast includes Kristin Scott Thomas, Ben Mendelsohn (as King George VI), Lily James, Stephen Dillane, Samuel West and Ronald Pickup, the latter an under-appreciated standout as Churchill’s unfortunate predecessor, Neville Chamberlain. Nominated for five additional Oscars: Best Picture, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, and Best Makeup and Hairstyling. Both the DVD ($29.98 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($34.98 retail) boast bonus features. Rated PG-13. ***
DRAG ME TO HELL (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Sam Raimi made a successful return to horror with this effective, award-winning 2009 shocker, with Alison Lohman earning her stripes as a “scream queen” who has three days to prevent an evil spirit from stealing her soul. The collector’s-edition, two-disc Blu-ray ($34.93 retail) includes both the theatrical release and unrated cut, retrospective and archival interviews, and more. Rated PG-13. ***
EXPATRIOT (Monarch Home Entertainment): Ex-CIA whistleblower Valene Kane is recruited by former colleague/lover Charlie Weber to infiltrate a Colombian crime ring in this topical but typical action potboiler with a few good scenes. *½
GATE II (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Actor Louis Tripp, writer Michael Nankin, and director Tibor Takacs reunite for this inferior 1990 follow-up to the surprise 1987 horror hit, with Tripp’s Terry (now a teenager) summoning demons from another dimension – causing more supernatural shenanigans. The special-edition Blu-ray ($29.99 retail) includes retrospective interviews, theatrical trailer, and more. Rated R. *½
“I AM SOMEBODY: THREE FILMS BY MADELINE ANDERSON” (Icarus Films Home Video): A self-explanatory DVD triple-feature ($29.98 retail) of documentary shorts films highlighting the history and struggle of the Civil Rights movement in America: Integration Report 1 (1960), A Tribute to Malcolm X (1967), and I Am Somebody (1970), replete with special features including retrospective interviews and featurettes.
“INDIEPIX FESTIVAL FAVORITES, VOLUME 3” (IndiePix Films): In honor of Black History Month, the latest in the ongoing series of DVD triple features ($59.95 retail) boasts a trio of acclaimed documentary features focusing on the African-American community: The Vanishing Black Male (2005), The Nine Lives of Marion Barry (2009), and In His Own Home (2014).
“JEAN-LUC GODARD + JEAN-PIERRE GORIN: FIVE FILMS, 1968-1971” (Arrow Academy/MVD Entertainment Group): A self-explanatory DVD/Blu-ray collection ($99.95 retail) of the cinematic collaboration of the legendary French New Wave pioneer Jean-Luc Godard and idealistic journalist and political activist Jean-Pierre Gorin: 1968’s Un film comme les autres (A Film Like Any Other), 1970’s Wind from the East (Vent d’est), 1970’s See You at Mao (British Sounds), 1971’s Lotte in Italia (Struggles in Italy), 1971’s Vladimir et Rosa (Vladimir and Rosa) – with bonus features including 100-page full-color book, retrospective interview, and more.
“THE MASTER”: THE COMPLETE SERIES (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Master ninja Lee Van Cleef and young protege Timothy Van Patten travel through the country, righting wrongs along the way – all the while pursued by arch-nemesis and former pupil Sho Kosugi (who acted as technical adviser), in all 13 episodes from the 1984 (and only) season of the short-lived but enjoyable NBC action series, with guest stars Stuart Whitman, David McCallum, Claude Akins, Demi Moore, Crystal Bernard, Diana Muldaur, Cotter Smith, William Smith, George Lazenby, Doug McClure, George Maharis, Clu Gulager, Edd Byrnes and others, available on DVD ($49.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($59.95 retail).
NAPPING PRINCESS (GKIDS/Shout! Factory): Kenji Kamiyama’s award-winning animated feature (originally titled Hirune-hime: Shiranai watashi no monogatari and also released as Ancien and the Magic Tablet) details the adventures of a young girl whose dreams prefigure the future, available on DVD ($16.97 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($26.99 retail), each replete with bonus features.
REBELS ON POINTE (Icarus Films Home Video): Bobbi Jo Hart’s award-winning documentary feature chronicles the history of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, the New York-based all-male drag ballet troupe, in humorous and heartfelt fashion. ***
“SALVATION”: SEASON ONE (CBS DVD/Paramount): With only six months before an asteroid strikes Earth, MIT student Charlie Rowe and tech mogul Santiago Cabrera join forces to save humanity from possible extinction, in all 13 episodes from the inaugural 2017 season of the CBS science-fiction series also starring Jennifer Finnigan, Jacqueline Byers, Ian Anthony Dale, Rachel Drance, Shazi Raja, and (periodically) Tovah Feldshuh as the President. The DVD ($33.99 retail) includes bonus features.
THE STAR (AFFIRM Films/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): The Biblical tale of the Nativity is re-told in this award-winning, PG-rated animated musical boasting a star-studded line-up of voice-over talent including Steven Yeun, Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry, Tracy Morgan, Aidy Bryant, Keegan-Michael Key, Gina Rodriguez, Zachary Levi, Ving Rhames, Kelly Clarkson, Patricia Heaton, Mariah Carey, Kris Kristofferson, Anthony Anderson, Kristin Chenoweth, Gabriel Iglesias, and Christopher Plummer (as Herod), available on DVD ($30.99 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($34.99 retail), each replete with bonus features.
WHERE’S DADDY? (Breaking Glass Pictures): Rel Dowdell’s feature-documentary debut examines the impact of child-support laws on the black community, featuring interviews with Bishop James D. Robinson, Philadelphia Eagles star Fred Barnett, writer Mister Mann Frisby, psychiatrist Dr. Kathleen Wells, rapper Freeway, and others. Occasionally heavy-handed, but the subject matter is relevant and presented in thoughtful terms. **½
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2018, Mark Burger)