Video Vault – Jul 25, 2018
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
PICK OF THE WEEK
PASTOR PAUL (IndiePix Films): It’s not Citizen Kane (1941) by a long shot, but first-time filmmaker Jules David Bartkowski’s debut feature is an auspicious one, to say nothing of fairly indescribable.
In a faux mock-documentary format, Bartkowski plays himself as a bumbling, wide-eyed tourist visiting West Africa who finds himself cast in the leading role of a low-budget version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Finding his motivation proves surprisingly easy when he is possessed by a ghost during production, causing him to suffer seizures and speak in tongues.
An inspired send-up of indie filmmaking and the “Nollywood” genre, Pastor Paul is a triumph of absurdist humor – and a likely cult contender. One is never sure what’s coming next … and sometimes it appears the filmmakers weren’t sure, either!
In addition to Bartkowski, whose guileless performance is quirky and appealing, there’s solid work from writer/producer/composer /first-time actor Funsho Ogundipe as the hard-driving director of the film-within-the film and first-time writer/producer/actor Wanlov the Kubolor as its producer.
The DVD retails for $24.95. ***
THE CON IS ON (LionsGate): Tim Roth and Uma Thurman headline this R-rated caper comedy and a husband-and-wife con-artist team at large in Hollywood, backed by a star-studded cast including Parker Posey, Stephen Fry, Sofia Vergara, Alice Eve, Maggie Q, Melissa (Sue) Anderson and Crispin Glover, available on DVD ($19.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($21.99 retail).
DIRECTOR’S CUT (Epic Pictures): Director Adam Rifkin’s uneven, self-indulgent send-up of slasher films and independent filmmaking stars screenwriter Penn Jillette as a deranged crowd-funding movie investor who abducts leading lady Missi Pyle (a graduate of the UNCSA School of Drama) in mid-production and re-edits the film to make himself the star. Also on hand: Harry Hamlin, Lin Shaye, Gilbert Gottfried, Marshall Bell, Nestor Carbonell, Ron Jeremy, Hamlin’s wife Lisa Rinna, and Jillette’s performance partner Teller (who gets to speak), available in a DVD/Blu-ray combo ($19.99 retail) boasting special features. **
DREAM BIG: ENGINEERING OUR WORLD (Shout! Factory): A 4K Ultra HD/3-D Blu-ray combo ($29.93 retail) of director Greg McGillivray’s award-winning documentary, narrated by Jeff Bridges and originally released to IMAX theaters, which explores how the worldwide impact of engineering throughout history.
FIRE BIRDS (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): This unintentionally funny 1990 knock-off of Top Gun (1990) stars Nicolas Cage and Sean Young – exhibiting no chemistry whatsoever – as daredevil Apache helicopter pilots pitted against South America’s drug cartels. By default, Tommy Lee Jones (coasting) takes acting honors as the typically crusty commanding officer. Both the DVD ($11.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($19.95 retail), both with audio commentary and original trailers. Rated PG-13. *½
FREE AND EASY (FilmRise/MVD Entertainment Group): Writer/director Jun Geng’s award-winning black comedy takes a satirical look at contemporary Chinese culture as it follows soap salesman and grifter Zhiyong Zhang as he cons his way through a remote mining village populated by eccentrics. In Mandarin with English subtitles, available on DVD ($19.95 retail).
GODMONSTER OF INDIAN FLATS (AFGA/Something Weird/MVD Entertainment): Filmmaker Fredric C. Hobbs’ last feature to date, this unbelievable – some would say “unspeakable” – low-budget 1973 drive-in cult schlock cult classic sees a mutant sheep (!) raising hell in the titular town. The special-edition Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) also includes writer/director Harry Winer’s low-budget, G-rated 1975 documentary feature The Legend of Bigfoot, plus bonus shorts and trailers. *
HITLER’S HOLLYWOOD (Kino Lorber): Writer/director Rudiger Suchsland follows his acclaimed 2014 documentary From Caligari to Hollywood with this informative, award-winning documentary – tellingly subtitled German Cinema in the Age of Propaganda 1933-1945 and narrated by Udio Kier – which examines the films and filmmakers of Nazi Germany, including those films which weren’t necessarily propaganda but nevertheless reflected attitudes and trends relevant to that era and culture. ***
HOTEL SALVATION (Film Movement): Father (Lalit Behl) and son (Adil Hussain) come to a reconciliation when they visit the holy city of Varanasi at the former’s behest, in this award-winning comedy/drama that marks the feature debut of writer/director Shubhashish Bhutiani. In Hindi with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.95 retail), replete with bonus features.
I AM ANOTHER YOU (FilmRise/MVD Entertainment): Chinese filmmaker Nanfu Wang and her cameras follow drifter Dylan Olsen as he lives life on the streets of Florida in this effective, award-winning documentary feature that offers an incisive portrait of the problems facing the disenfranchised and homeless. ***
I DREAM IN ANOTHER LANGUAGE (FilmRise/MVD Entertainment Group): This award-winning Mexican drama (originally titled Sueno en otro idioma) stars Fernando Alvarez Rebeil as a linguistics scholar desperate to research a rare language before it vanishes. In Spanish with English subtitles, available on DVD ($19.95 retail).
“KEEPING FAITH” (Acorn TV): Eve Myles portrays a small-town Welsh lawyer whose life is thrown into chaos when her husband and business partner (Bradley Freegard) inexplicably disappears, in all eight episodes from the inaugural 2017 season of the BBC Wales drama series created by Matthew Hall, filmed on location in Wales and featuring Mark Lewis Jones, Matthew Gravelle, Eiry Thomas, Rhian Morgan, and Aneirin Hughes in support. Both the three-disc DVD ($49.99 retail) and three-disc Blu-ray ($49.99 retail) include featurettes.
“MALE SHORTS: INTERNATIONAL V1” (Breaking Glass Pictures): A DVD compilation ($19.99 retail) of critically acclaimed LGBTQ short films: Writer/director Travis Mathews’s Just Past Noon on a Tuesday (2018), writer/director Ricky Mastro’s 2016 short The Mousetrap (originally titled La Tapette), Mastro’s 2017 short The Storm (originally titled La Tempete), Antony Hickling’s Shakespeare-inspired 2014 short P.D., and director Daniel Nolasco’s 2017 writing/producing debut Neptune (originally titled Netuno).
MEMOIRS OF AN INVISIBLE MAN (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): A collector’s-edition Blu-ray ($29.99 retail) of John Carpenter’s 1992 adaptation of H.F. Saint’s novel, starring Chevy Chase as an everyman rendered invisible by a nuclear accident, which complicates his budding romance with Daryl Hannah and makes him the target of government hatchet man Sam Neill. Superb special effects dominate this uneven disappointment, whose production was widely reported to be troubled. Special features include vintage interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, outtakes, theatrical trailer, TV spots, and more. Rated PG-13. **
“MODUS”: SEASON 1 (Kino Lorber): Melinda Kinnaman stars as a psychologist and former FBI profiler drawn into a series of brutal killings in Stockholm in all eight episodes from the inaugural 2015 season of the popular Swedish mystery series based on Anne Holt’s series of best-selling novels, with Esmerelda Struwe as Kinnaman’s autistic daughter, who is thrown into jeopardy, and Henrik Norlen as the hard-bitten detective on the case. In English and Swedish with English subtitles, available on DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($34.95 retail).
NATIONAL PARKS ADVENTURE (Shout! Factory): Robert Redford narrates this 2005 documentary, produced to commemorate the National Parks Centennial and released to IMAX theaters, available in a 4K Ultra/3-D Blu-ray combo ($29.93 retail).
PERSONAL PROBLEMS (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Actor/filmmaker Bill Gunn teamed with novelist/executive producer/co-star Ishmael Reed and poet/publisher Steve Cannon for this two-part 1980 mini-series, an ensemble drama told entirely from the perspective of middle-class black characters as they contend with the tragedies and triumphs of contemporary life. Rarely seen since its original (and limited) broadcast, and then only in heavily-edited versions, this is the full version, digitally remastered and restored, available on DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail), each boasting bonus features including retrospective interviews, deleted and extended scenes, original six-part 1977 radio drama, and more.
RAMPAGE (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): Giant creatures are wreaking havoc, and only paleontologist (and executive producer) Dwayne Johnson stands in their way, in this PG-13-rated sci-fi special-effects bonanza co-starring Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Malin Akerman, Jake Lacy, Joe Manganiello, Marley Shelton, P.J. Byrne, Matt Gerald and Jack Quaid (son of Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan), available on DVD ($28.98 retail), DVD/Blu-ray combo ($35.99 retail), 3-D Blu-ray combo ($44.95 retail), and 4K Ultra HD combo ($44.95 retail), each replete with bonus features.
SUPERGIRL (FilmRise/MVD Entertainment Group): Producer/director/editor Jessie Auritt’s appealing, warm-hearted, award-winning documentary focuses on Naomi Kutin, an Orthodox Jewish pre-teen from the New Jersey suburbs who happens to be a champion weightlifter, hence her (well-deserved) nickname. ***
TIGER BY THE TAIL (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Director R.G. Springsteen’s final feature (filmed in 1968 but not released until 1970) stars Christopher George as a Vietnam veteran framed for the murder of his brother (Dennis Patrick), then reunites with old flame Tippi Hedren to solve the crime and exact revenge. Lots of familiar faces on hand: Lloyd Bochner, Dean Jagger, John Dehner, Alan Hale, R.G. Armstrong, Skip Homeier, Glenda Farrell (in her last film), and Charo (in her first film). Both the DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) include audio commentary and bonus trailers.
YOU WILL BE MINE (Film Movement): Writer/director Sophie Laloy’s award-winning, highly operatic 2009 feature debut (originally titled Je te Mangerais and also released as Highly Strung) dramatizes the growing romantic obsession of Isild Le Besco with childhood friend and current roommate Judith Davis, an aspiring concert pianist studying at Lyons National Conservatory. Ponderous at times, but bolstered by Marc Tevanian’s gorgeous cinematography, forceful lead performances, and wonderful snatches of classical music. In French with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.95 retail). **½
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2018, Mark Burger)