The Arts

Video Vault – Feb 8, 2017



Death-Race-2050-Blu-rayROGER CORMAN’S DEATH RACE 2050 (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment): Never one to resist revisiting previous territory, the indefatigable Roger Corman (90 years old and still going strong) serves as executive producer for this remake/reboot/rehash of Death Race 2000, the cult classic he produced in 1975, hailed in some quarters as the greatest “B Movie” ever made (since redone also in 2008’s Death Race and its follow-ups).

The setting jumps ahead 50 years but follows the blueprint of the original film closely, with a cross-country road race (“Old New York” to “New Los Angeles”) in which contestants earn points by killing pedestrians, observers, and the competition – all of it to the rabid delight of its bloodthirsty fans, some of whom can “experience” action for themselves via virtual reality.

Chock full of cheesy CGI, gratuitous nudity and violence, and (extremely) broad satire, Death Race 2050 is raunchy junk at its most entertainingly eye-rolling. Sometimes you laugh with it and sometimes at it, but it delivers what it promises.

Manu Bennett is merely serviceable as the black-clad (anti-)hero Frankenstein, but Folake Olowofoyeku is great fun as the high-strung militant racer Minerva, and Malcolm McDowell, sporting an outrageous comb-over, gives a spirited account as the all-powerful corporate kingpin “The Chairman,” delivering his dialogue with gusto and glee. (No points for guessing who he’s sending up!)

Both the DVD ($22.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($26.98 retail) include production featurettes. Rated R. **½



THE 9TH LIFE OF LOUIS DRAX (LionsGate): Alexandre Aja’s R-rated adaptation of Liz Jenson’s best-seller stars Jamie Dornan as a physician who delves into the past of the title character (Aiden Longworth), a youngster who has survived eight near-death experiences and currently hovers in a coma after a fall. Aaron Paul, Sarah Gadon, Barbara Hershey, Oliver Platt, Molly Parker and Julian Wadham co-star, available on DVD ($19.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($24.98 retail).

ADDICTED TO FRESNO (FilmRise/Gravitas Ventures/MVD Entertainment Group): Judy Greer and Natasha Lyonne are a winning duo as sisters employed at the same hotel in the title town in this ribald screwball farce originally titled simply Fresno, which benefits (greatly) from a game cast including Molly Shannon, Ron Livingston, Aubrey Plaza, Fred Armisen (Lyonne’s off-screen beau), Malcolm Barrett and Clea DuVall. Nice also to see Greer enjoy a lead turn. **½

BABY, BABY, BABY  (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Adrianne Palicki and writer/director Brian Klugman (nephew of Jack) exhibit nice chemistry in this award-winning romantic comedy detailing the relationship between a struggling artist and a struggling actor/writer in Los Angeles. Klugman’s script boasts some sharp insights and there’s a fun, cameo-filled cast on hand: Kelsey Grammer, James Roday, Greg Grunberg, William Shatner, Cloris Leachman, Jared Harris, Jonathan Silverman, Dennis Haysbert, Jessica Alba and Bradley Cooper. Rated R. **½

BAD MOMS (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment): Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn topline this award-winning, R-rated comedy about matriarchal mayhem, written and directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, co-starring Jada Pinkett Smith, Christina Applegate, Jay Hernandez, Clark Duke and Wendell Pierce, available on DVD ($29.98 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($34.98 retail) – both replete with special features.

CROSS WARS (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Brian Austin Green’s back in action in this R-rated follow-up to the 2011 adventure adventure Cross, as a crime-fighter armed with an ancient amulet that gives him the power to fight the forces of evil. Screenwriter/producer/director Patrick Durham’s back at the helm, while Vinnie Jones, Tom Sizemore, Lori Heuring, Danny Trejo and producer Tim Abell also reprise their roles, available on DVD ($19.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($25.99 retail).

DEAD WEST (RLJ Entertainment): Writer/producer/editor/director/co-star Jeff Ferrell’s atmopsheric but overlong film noir/black comedy stars Brian Sutherland as “the Ladykiller,” a serial killer at large in the heartland of America, where he woos a potential new victim (Meagan Karimi-Naser) and tangles with the vengeful brother (Jeffrey Arrington) of a previous victim. A nice try that doesn’t quite make it. *½

“FERAL”: SEASON ONE (TLA Releasing): A DVD collection ($24.99 retail) of all eight episodes from the inaugural 2016 season of the Deekoo original drama series starring Jordan Nichol and Seth Daniels as best friends who become part of the underground art community in Memphis, Tenn.

THE HANDMAIDEN (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Park Chan-wook’s stylish, provocative, award-winning adaptation of Sarah Waters’ novel Fingersmith (originally titled Ahgaasi) stars Kim Tae-ri as a con artist who accepts the title position for a wealthy Japanese heiress (Kim Min-hee), set against the backdrop of Korea’s occupation of Japan in the early 20th century, told in three chapters that offers different character’s points-of-view. Often self-indulgent and sometimes overlong, but a fabulous curio and a feast for the eyes. In Japanese and Korean with English subtitles, available on DVD ($30.99 retail). ***

LEONARD COHEN: I’M YOUR MAN (LionsGate): The title tells all in writer/producer and first-time feature director Lian Lunson’s award-winning, PG-13-rated 2005 documentary, which pays tribute to and is narrated by the legendary singer/songwriter who died last November at age 82, featuring appearances and performances by such luminaries as Bono, Nick Cave, Beth Orton, Rufus Wainwright and other Cohen devotees, now available on Blu-ray ($14.99 retail).

LIFE ON THE LINE (LionsGate): John Travolta heads the cast of this R-rated disaster saga, as a grief-stricken electrical lineman whose team is threatened by an impending storm strikes a Texas town. Kate Bosworth, Devon Sawa, Gil Bellows, Julie Benz and Sharon Stone also star, available on DVD ($19.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($24.98 retail).

A MAN CALLED OVE (Music Box Films Home Entertainment): Writer/director Hannes Holm’s fun-filled, bittersweet adaptation of Fredrik Bachman’s best-seller (originally titled En man som heter Ove) stars Rolf Lassgard in the title role of a widowed, newly unemployed curmudgeon whose repeated attempts at suicide are complicated by his new neighbors, who eventually melt his gruff demeanor. An international art-house smash that scored Oscar nominations for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Achievement in Makeup and Hair Styling. In Swedish and Persian with English subtitles, available on DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($34.95 retail). Rated PG-13. ***

OUT OF THE DARKNESS (IMD Film Distribution/MVD Entertainment Group): The front of the sleeve says Out of Darkness, the back says Out of the Darkness, and top-billed Graham Greene’s name is misspelled, but by any title this latter-day parable, inspired by the Biblical tale of Jonah, following the travails of a disillusioned combat veteran (Adam Elliott Davis), is the sort of mawkish, cliche-riddled melodrama that gives faith-based movies a bad name. Zero stars

SABOTAGE (Olive Films): Not to be confused with Alfred Hitchcock’s 1936 thriller Sabotage or his 1942 Saboteur, this low-budget 1939 thriller stars Gordon Oliver as a man framed for sabotage, prompting his father (Charley Grapewin) and fiancee (Arleen Whelan, later in Saboteur) to unmask the real culprit, available on DVD ($19.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail).

SILICON COWBOYS (FilmRise/MVD Entertainment Group): Writer/executive producer/director Jason Cohen’s award-winning documentary feature debut is an interesting, fast-moving chronicle of Jim Harris, Rod Canion and Bill Murto, the founders of the Texas-based Compaq Computer Corp., which jockeyed for supremacy with IBM throughout the ’80s and still remains a technology powerhouse to this day. ***

WAGON TRACKS (Olive Films): William S. Hart produced and stars in this silent 1919 Western saga set against the backdrop of the Gold Rush in the 1850s, newly remastered and available on DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail).

WARCRAFT (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment): The Bizzard Entertainment video-game phenomenon hits the big-screen in this grand-scale, PG-13-rated fantasy co-scripted and directed by Duncan Jones (son of David Bowie), with Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell, Clancy Brown, Callum Keith Rennie and Ben Foster swept up in the action, available on DVD ($19.98 retail), DVD/Blu-ray combo ($22.98 retail), 3-D Blu-ray combo ($29.98 retail) and 4K Ultra HD ($44.98 retail).

(Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2017, Mark Burger) HYPERLINK “”