Video Vault – Jan 17, 2018
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
PICK OF THE WEEK
MATINEE (Shout! Factory): Director Joe Dante’s affectionate, award-winning 1993 comedy manages even to wring some sentimental nostalgia from the Cold War paranoia that gripped the nation during the early 1960s, when the film is set.
Simon Fenton epitomizes typical all-American adolescence as Gene, a youngster whose nightmares about nuclear annihilation are surpassed by his affection for the schlock sci-fi/horror films churned out by John Goodman’s tireless B-movie impresario Lawrence Woolsey (clearly modeled on filmmaker William Castle, who never met a gimmick he didn’t like).
When Woolsey decided to premiere his latest, atomic-inspired extravaganza, Mant!, at Gene’s local bijou, the boy happily agrees to work under the lovably bombastic producer’s tutelage. Dante and screenwriter Charlie Haas evince a clear affection for the B-movie trappings on display here, yielding plenty of laughs for movie mavens.
Gene’s pals are played by Omri Katz (who also starred in Dante’s unjustly short-lived NBC series “Eerie, Indiana”), Lisa Jakub, and Kellie Martin (hilarious as the resident school flirt), while the adult contingent includes such familiar faces as Cathy Moriarty (as Woolsey’s on- and off-screen leading lady), Robert Picardo, Lucinda Jenney, David Clennon, Jesse White (in his final feature), filmmaker John Sayles, and Dante regular Dick Miller.
The “Shout Select” Blu-ray ($34.93 retail) includes retrospective interviews, vintage featurette, the full-length film-within-a-film Mant! and more. Rated PG. ***
68 KILL (IFC Midnight/Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Writer/director Trent Haaga’s award-winning adaptation of Bryan Smith’s novel stars Matthew Gray Gubler as a blue-collar everyman sucked into a whirlwind of robbery, betrayal, murder and revenge by hair-trigger stripper girlfriend AnnaLynne McCord. Stylized, shallow and very violent, although action junkies probably won’t mind. **
BABES WITH BLADES: FLOWER OF SARNA (Breaking Glass Pictures): Writer/producer and first-time director Cecily Fay stars as the fearless female warrior in this cheesy sci-fi action blow-out boasting a muddled mythos, jerky camerawork, excessive (and unnecessary) slow-motion, and dialogue that is frequently drowned out by music or sound effects. Fay is no Gal Gadot (nor is she Patty Jenkins); this plays like a bad Roger Corman production. The DVD ($19.99 retail) includes special features. *
A BLUE WORLD ORDER (Random Media): Writer/directors Che Baker and Dallas Bland expand their 2010 short into this ham-fisted futuristic farrago set in a grubby, virus-ravaged, post-apocalyptic Australia. Some interesting ideas are hindered by a low budget and, more to the point, a lack of inspiration. Jake Ryan stars as the tight-lipped hero Jake Slater, with Jack Thompson, Bruce Spence and Billy Zane squandered in limited supporting roles. *½
THE BREAKFAST CLUB (The Criterion Collection): John Hughes’ seminal, award-winning 1985 comedy/drama stars Emilio Estevez, Anthony Hall, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy as five high-schoolers who bond during Saturday detention. The quintessential “Brat Pack” movie, with John Kapelos and the much-missed Paul Gleason representing the adult contingent, this remains perceptive and entertaining, although not without its faults. Thanks to this film, Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” remains in regular radio rotation. The special-edition DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) include audio commentary, retrospective interviews, documentary, deleted scenes, and more. Rated R. ***
CAMELOT (S’more Entertainment/MVD Entertainment Group): Richard Harris reprises his screen role as King Arthur in the 1980 Broadway revival of the Lerner & Loewe musical extravaganza, originally broadcast on “HBO Theatre” in 1982. Meg Bussert plays Guinevere and Richard Muenz plays Lancelot, but it’s hardly surprising that Harris dominates the spectacle, which is amusing, overblown, and quintessentially theatrical. Essentially a filmed play, it’s remarkable how technology has improved in the last 35 years. The DVD retails for $14.95. **½
“GIRLFRIENDS”: THE COMPLETE SERIES (CBS DVD/Paramount): Tracee Ellis Ross, Golden Brooks, Jill Marie Jones and Persia White head the ensemble cast as the titlular characters, in all 169 episodes from the entire 2000-’08 run of the award-winning comedy series, aired first on UPN and then The CW, available in a 25-DVD boxed set ($55.98 retail) – replete with bonus features.
HOWARD LOVECRAFT AND THE UNDERSEA KINGDOM (Arcana Studios/Shout! Factory): Writer/producer/director Sean Patrick O’Reilly’s award-winning, animated follow-up to Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom (2016) sees Kiefer O’Relly (Sean’s son) reprising his voice-over role as the title character, based on the graphic novel series and featuring the voices of Christopher Plummer, Mark Hamill, Ron Perlman, Doug Bradley, and Jeffrey Combs (fondly remembered for his role in the ’80s Lovecraft adaptation Re-Animator). Spooky, episodic, and family-friendly, with plenty of Lovecraftian references and in-jokes. Howard Lovecraft and the Kingdom of Madness is promised. The DVD retails for $14.98, the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $24.97. **
LEAP! (LionsGate): A pair of orphans (voiced by Elle Fanning and Nat Wolff) seek to achieve their dreams in Paris, in this PG-rated animated musical/comedy (originally titled Ballerina), also boasting the voice-over talents of Kate McKinnon, Mel Brooks, Carly Rae Jepson, and Maddie Ziegler, available on DVD ($29.95 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($39.99 retail) – each replete with special features.
LEMON (Magnolia Home Entertainment): The husband-and-wife duo of Janicza Bravo (co-writer/executive producer/director) and Brett Gelman (co-producer/co-writer) fashioned this dry, droll, award-winning character study of an unlikable, self-loathing misanthrope (Gelman) trying to turn his life around, with Judy Greer, Michael Cera, Gillian Jacobs, Rhea Perlman, David Paymer, Jeff Garlin, Nia Long, Megan Mullally, Shiri Appleby, Marla Gibbs, Fred Melamed and Martin Starr occasionally entering his obnoxious orbit. The DVD ($26.98 retail) includes interviews, deleted scenes, and trailer. **½
LOGAN LUCKY (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment): Steven Soderbergh ends his self-imposed “retirement” with this buoyant, award-winning heist comedy starring Channing Tatum and Adam Driver as bumbling brothers who team with sister Riley Keough to rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway – in broad daylight, during the Coca-Cola 600 (!). Enjoyably played by a star-studded ensemble cast including Daniel Craig, Hilary Swank, Katie Holmes, Seth MacFarlane, Katherine Waterston, Sebastian Stan, and Dwight Yoakam (hilarious as an unflappable prison warden), available on DVD ($29.98 retail), DVD/Blu-ray combo ($34.98 retail), and 4K Ultra HD ($44.98 retail) – each replete with special features. Rated PG-13. ***
MACON COUNTY LINE (Shout! Factory): Max Baer (a long way from “The Beverly Hillbillies”) produced and co-scripted this 1974 drive-in favorite, set in 1954 and based on actual events, with real-life brothers Alan and Jesse Vint playing brothers whose joyride turns into a flight for survival when they are unjustly accused of murder and pursued by vengeful small-town sheriff Baer. Cheryl Waters is the obligatory girl along for the ride, with Geoffrey Lewis, Joan Blackman, James Gammon, Timothy Scott, Emile Meyer and Doodles Weaver appearing in support. The “Shout Select” Blu-ray ($22.97 retail) includes audio commentary, vintage featurette, retrospective interview, and theatrical trailer. Rated R. **½
THE MAN FROM EARTH (Man From Earth LLC/MVD Entertainment Group): Nearly a decade after his death, writer Jerome Bixby’s final screenplay was adapted into this award-winning 2007 film by producer/director Richard Schenkman, with David Lee Smith as a college professor whose retirement party becomes his forum to reveal his true past. Despite a low budget, the story’s intelligence shines through, and the solid cast includes Tony Todd, William Katt, Richard Riehle, Ellen Crawford, Annika Peterson and John Billingsley. This heady, existential sci-fi character study is one cult classic that earns its stripes. The special-edition DVD/Blu-ray combo ($39.95 retail) includes audio commentaries, retrospective documentary, vintage featurettes, and more. ***
THE MIDDLE FINGER (Troma Entertainment/CAV Distributing): Seamus Hanly’s comic-book spoof casts himself as a geeky Irish teenager transformed into the titular superhero after an alien visitation – except he has no idea how to use his new powers. The special-edition Blu-ray ($19.98 retail) includes audio commentary, featurette, music videos, trailers, outtakes and more.
SHOCK WAVE (Cinedigm): Writer/producer Herman Yau’s thriller (originally titled Chai den zhuan jia) stars producer Andy Lau as an undercover demolitions expert who matches wits with vengeful thief Jiang Wu, whose gang he busted and who has wired Hong Kong’s Cross-Harbour Tunnel with explosives. Sleek and action-packed, but a little on the long side. In Mandarin or Catonese with English subtitles, available on DVD ($16.97 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($22.97 retail). **½
STEFAN ZWEIG: FAREWELL TO EUROPE (First Run Features): Executive producer/screenwriter/director Maria Schrader’s award-winning, fact-based drama depicts the final years of noted Austrian writer Stefan Zweig (1881-1942) in exile after fleeing Nazi Germany. Josef Hader’s effective, low-key performance by Zweig is matched by those of Barbara Sukowa as his first wife and Aenne Schwarz as his second. In English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.95 retail). ***
THE ZODIAC KILLER (American Genre Film Archive-AGFA/MVD Entertainment Group): Restaurateur-turned-filmmaker Tom Hanson’s 1971 feature debut, which he insists he made to ferret out the actual Zodiac Killer (who terrorized San Francisco during that time), opens with a legend penned by the actual San Francisco Chronicle columnist Paul Avery, starts slowly but picks up energy in the second half, becoming a crazy, crude, intermittently effective exploitation film that sort of makes the viewer believe that anyone could have been the culprit. The special-edition DVD/Blu-ray combo ($34.95 retail) includes audio commentary, retrospective interviews, and the full-length, PG-rated (!) 1977 exploitation melodrama Another Son of Sam (originally titled Hostages), which was filmed in Charlotte (!), has absolutely nothing to do with the New York serial killer, and is an utter bore. **
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2018, Mark Burger)