Video Vault – Jan 24, 2018
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
PICK OF THE WEEK
INHERIT THE WIND (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Stanley Kramer’s classic 1960 courtroom drama, based on the Jerome Lawrence/Robert E. Lee play and inspired by the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial, offers first-rate, thought-provoking entertainment throughout.
That Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution (remarkably) remains a hot topic nearly a century later, lends this period piece a distinctive, timeless quality. It’s points and observations are still relevant, as schoolteacher Dick York tried for discussing Darwin with his students.
Instead of Clarence Darrow (for the defense) and William Jennings Bryant (for the prosecution), we have Spencer Tracy as Henry Drummond and Fredric March as Matthew Harrison Brady, and it’s a thrill to watch these acting titans at work. Tracy earned an Oscar nomination as Best Actor, March deserved one, and every bit their equal is Gene Kelly, triumphantly cast against type as cynical reporter E.K. Hornbeck (think H.L. Mencken), whose own point of view likewise hasn’t dated. On the basis of performance alone, Inherit the Wind is fairly flawless filmmaking.
The film received additional Oscar nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography (black-and-white) and Best Film Editing, and the Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) includes audio commentary and original trailer. ****
ABE AND PHIL’S LAST POKER GAME (Gravitas Ventures): In the title roles of writer/producer/director Howard L. Weiner’s debut feature, Martin Landau and Paul Sorvino play residents at an assisted-living facility who become fast friends, with Maria Dizzia as the new nurse who believes her biological father is also a resident. This bittersweet comedy/drama can’t quite overcome its sitcom trappings, but Landau (in his penultimate film) and Sorvino are a pleasure to watch. Rated R. **½
CADILLAC MAN (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Director Roger Donaldson’s uneven 1990 farce stars Robin Williams (in prime form) as a fast-talking, womanizing car salesman whose lot is taken over by gun-toting goofball Tim Robbins, the cuckolded husband of one of his paramours (Annabella Sciorra). The hard-working cast includes Pamela Reed, Fran Drescher, Lori Petty, Zack Norman, Paul Guilfoyle, Eddie Jones, Lauren Tom (hilarious as an obnoxious waitress), and an unbilled Elaine Stritch (equally hilarious in the opening sequence). The Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) includes audio commentary by Donaldson and theatrical trailer. Rated R. **
“THE COMMANDER”: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION (Acorn TV): The title tells all in this seven-DVD collection ($59.99 retail) of all 17 feature-length episodes from the entire 2003-’08 run of the ITV crime series, created by Lynda LaPlante (of “Prime Suspect” renown), starring Amanda Burton in the title role of Clare Blake, the highest-ranking female officer at Scotland Yard, whose ambitions and recklessness tend to throw her personal and professional lives into turmoil.
CONDUCT! EVERY MOVE COUNTS (Film Movement): Writer/editor/director Gotz Schauder’s feature documentary profiles five aspiring conductors from around the world – Alondra de La Parra, Andreas Hotz, Aziz Shokhakimov, James Lowe and Shizuo Kuwahara – as they congregate to compete in the International Conductors’ Competition in Frankfurt, available on DVD ($24.95 retail).
“CULTURE CLUB – LIVE AT WEMBLEY” (Cleopatra Records/MVD Entertainment Group): The culmination of the 2016 reunion tour of the Grammy-winning British band at London’s historic Wembley Arena sees all four original members – Boy George, Jon Moss, Roy Hay, and Mikey Craig – performing such chart-topping hits as “Karma Chameleon,” “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me,” “Miss Me Blind” and more, available in a DVD/CD combo ($24.95 retail) and a DVD/Blu-ray/CD combo ($29.95 retail).
THE FILM CRITIC (Music Box Films Home Entertainment): Writer/director Hernan Gerschuny’s award-winning romp (originally title El Critico) stars Rafael Spregelburd in the title role of a dissatisfied, disillusioned film critic (imagine!) whose whirlwind encounter with free-spirited Dolores Fonzi bears all the trademarks of the high-concept romantic comedies he loathes. The rom-com trappings are typical but amusing, and the digs at contemporary moviemaking are sometimes deliciously on-target. In French and Spanish with English subtitles. ***
“FRENCH KISSES” (TLA Releasing): A DVD collection ($24.99 retail) of six critically-acclaimed, gay-themed French-language short films: Apollo, The Body of Angels, En Retour, Ruptures, and Juliet Electrique.
THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT 2 (RLJE Films): The found-footage frights continue, as director/co-writer Bobby Roe, producer/co-writer Zack Andrews, producer Steven Schneider, Mikey Roe, Jeff Larson, and Brandy Schaefer reunite for this sequel to their 2014 shocker, expanded from a 2011 short of the same name. A little on the long side, but decent enough scare fare, available on DVD ($27.97 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.97 retail). **
THE JAZZ LOFT ACCORDING TO W. EUGENE SMITH (Kino Lorber): Writer/producer/director Sara Fishko’s feature documentary debut captures the time, place, and mood of 821 Sixth Avenue in New York City, where the legendary photographer W. Eugene Smith (1918-’78) created a haven for artists and jazz musicians, brought to vivid life through a treasure trove of vintage photographs and audio recordings from 1957-’65, which had never been released to the public – until now. The DVD retails for $29.95. ***
MY ENTIRE HIGH SCHOOL SINKING INTO THE SEA (GKIDS/Shout! Factory): Graphic novelist Dash Shaw makes his feature debut as writer/producer/director of this flaky, award-winning, animated farce that sends up teen angst and disaster movies (especially The Poseidon Adventure), with an all-star voice-over cast including Jason Schwartzman (as “Dash Shaw”), Reggie Watts, Susan Sarandon, Maya Rudolph, Lena Dunham, John Cameron Mitchell, Alex Kapovsky, and Thomas Jay Ryan. UNCSA School of Filmmaking graduate Craig Zobel was also a producer. Both the DVD ($16.97 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($26.99 retail) include bonus features. Rated PG-13. ***
NO SOLICITORS (Cinedigm): Director John Callas makes his feature debut as writer/producer with this award-winning but all-too-obvious black comedy (originally titled Death by Solicitation), starring Eric Roberts as an esteemed brain surgeon who dabbles in organ trafficking and cannibalism with the help of his picture-perfect, all-American family. Gruesome but only occasionally inspired, despite a cast of genre veterans including Beverly Randolph, Felissa Rose (also a producer), Kim Poirer, Vernon Wells and Ken Sagoes. Making her screen debut as an unwary victim is Lucy Walsh, daughter of rock ‘n’ roller Joe Walsh. *½
NOVEMBER CRIMINALS (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Chloe Grace Moretz and Ansel Elgort play college-bound sweethearts whose budding romance is interrupted when they embark on an investigation into the murder of classmate Jared Kemp, in director/screenwriter Sacha Gervasi’s PG-13-rated adaptation of Sam Munson’s novel, available on DVD ($19.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($25.99 retail).
THE TAKING OF BEVERLY HILLS (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Director/story writer Sidney J. Furie’s ham-fisted 1991 shoot-’em-up (clearly inspired by Die Hard) stars Ken Wahl as a hot-shot NFL quarterback who wages a one-man war against the high-tech criminals (led by perennial baddie Robert Davi) who have laid siege to the titular town in order to commit a massive heist, with Matt Frewer, Harley Kozak, Lee Ving and William Prince in the line of fire. Both the DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) include audio commentary and theatrical trailer. Rated R. *
THE TEACHER (Film Movement): Director Jan Hrebejk and writer Petr Jarkovsky reunite for this scabrous, award-winning dark satire (originally titled Ucitelka), set in early-’80s Czechoslovakia, starring Zuzana Maurery in the title role of a manipulative middle-school teacher who demands favors from students and their parents, which some consent to because she’s a high-ranking member of the Communist Party. Cold-blooded at times but also effective. In Slovak with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.95 retail). ***
THE TIGER HUNTER (Shout! Factory): Writer/producer/director Lena Khan’s debut feature is a pleasant, if lightweight, culture-clash comedy starring executive producer Danny Pudi as an Indian engineer seeking his fortune in ’70s Chicago – all the better to impress the girl (Karen David) he’s loved since childhood. A friendly cast helps: Jon Heder, Rizwan Manji, Parvesh Cheena, Michael McMillian, Sam Page, and Kevin Pollak. The “Shout Select” DVD/Blu-ray combo ($29.99 retail) includes featurette and trailer. **
THE WOMAN WHO LEFT (Kino Lorber): Laz Diav’s award-winning, epic drama (originally titled Ang babaeng humayo), based on Tolstory’s short story God Sees the Truth, but Waits, stars Charo Santos in the title role of a woman released from prison after 30 years for a murder she didn’t commit, and her methodical pursuit of the former lover (Michael De Mesa) who framed her for the crime. In English, Filipino and Japanese with English subtitles, available on DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($34.95 retail).
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2018, Mark Burger)