Video Vault – July 26, 2017
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
PICK OF THE WEEK
STORMY MONDAY (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): Writer/director Mike Figgis’ award-winning 1988 debut is as steeped in the distinctive Newcastle milieu in which British-born was raised as latter-day film-noir trappings that heralded the genre’s resurgence in the ’80s.
Tommy Lee Jones, at his menacing best, plays Cosmo, a shady American businessman bent on taking over a popular jazz club owned by Finney (Sting) – an undertaking that proves unexpectedly complicated when Cosmo’s ex-lover Kate (Melanie Griffith) falls for new club employee Brendan (Sean Bean).
As a sleek and seductive exercise in style, Roger Deakins’ evocative cinematography and Figgis’ bluesy score are the ideal accoutrements for these dark doings, and the performances are strong across the board, with Griffith surprisingly touching as the lonely, luckless Kate.
The DVD/Blu-ray combo ($29.95 retail) includes audio commentary and more. Rated R. ***
BAG BOY COVER BOY (Severin Films/CAV Distributing): Executive producer/producer Andres Torres’ award-winning writing/directing feature debut (and instant cult favorite) stars Jon Wachter (in his screen debut) as an eccentric New York hot-dog vendor who becomes an underground media sensation when he becomes the subject and “muse” of fetish photographer Theodore Bouloukos, available on DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($24.95 retail) – both replete with special features.
BEHIND THE MASK: THE BATMAN – DEAD END STORY (Candy Factory Films): Writer/director Eric Dow’s entertaining documentary feature offers a fascinating glimpse into contemporary Hollywood moviemaking, as he profiles artist/filmmaker Sandy Collora, maker of the classic fan short The Batman – Dead End Story, as he struggles to establish a thriving career. Collora and Dow also produced, edited and were cinematographers. ***
BLACK BUTTERFLY (LionsGate): This R-rated remake of the 2008 French thriller Papillon Noir stars Antonio Banderas as a hard-drinking, disillusioned writer caught up in a series of brutal murders, with Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Piper Perabo lurking in the background, available on DVD ($19.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($24.99 retail).
THE COUNTRY DOCTOR (Distrib Films US/Icarus Films Home Video): Former physician-turned-filmaker Thomas Lilti’s compassionate drama (originally titled Madecin de campagne and also released as Irreplaceable) stars Francois Cluzet in the title role, an ailing doctor who is joined by female doctor Marianne Denicourt to help tend his patients. Overly sentimental toward the end, but fine acting makes this hard to resist. In French with English subtitles. ***
CURSE OF THE CRIMSON ALTAR (Cheezy Movies/MVD Entertainment Group): Boris Karloff (in one of his last roles) and Christopher Lee headline this atmospheric but murky 1968 shocker (released PG-rated in the US as The Crimson Cult), loosely inspired by the H.P. Lovecraft story The Curse of the Witch House. Much of the action focuses on young leads Mark Eden and Virginia Wetherell (in her screen debut), with Barbara Steele, Michael Gough and Rupert Davies in the background. Silly but watchable, thanks in large part to Karloff and Lee’s polished performances. **
THE DARK TAPES (Epic Pictures): Producer Vincent J. Guastini and writer/producer Michael J. McQuown (making his feature debut as editor and cinematographer) makes their feature directorial debuts with this award-winning, found-footage horror anthology. Earnest and ambitious, this doesn’t always succeed – the earlier segments are the better ones – but the effort is laudable, which counts for something. **
DEVIL’S DOMAIN (Cleopatra Entertainment/MVD Entertainment Group): Writer/director Jared Cohn’s supernatural shocker stars Madi Vodane (in her screen debut) as a victim of cyber-bullying who pacts with a Satanic seductress (Linda Bella) to exact revenge against her tormentors, available on Blu-ray ($24.95 retail).
GAME CHANGERS (Candy Factory Films): Brian Bernys stars in writer/executive producer/editor/director Rob Imbs’ award-winning comedy/drama as a former professional gamer coming to terms with the rigors and requirements of adulthood now that his youthful fame has faded. A modestly engaging character study, with Jake Albarella co-starring as Bernys’ best (and only) friend. **½
“GIRLS”: THE COMPLETE SIXTH SEASON (HBO): Lena Dunham and her friends (Jemima Kirke, Allison Williams and Zosia Mamet) are still looking for love – sometimes in the wrong places – in all 10 episodes from the 2017 (and last) season of the award-winning HBO comedy series created by Dunham, which earned Emmy nominations for Riz Ahmed and Matthew Rhys (Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series) and Becky Ann Baker (Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series), available on DVD ($24.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($34.98 retail) – both with bonus features.
THE LOST CITY OF Z (Broad Green Pictures): Writer/producer/director James Gray’s PG-13-rated adaptation of David Grann’s non-fiction best-seller stars Charlie Hunnam as 20th-century explorer Percy Fawcett, who vanished in the Amazon while on his relentless quest to discover a mysterious city. Sienna Miller, Robert Pattinson, Tom Holland, Angus Macfadyen, Ian McDiarmid and Franco Nero round out the cast of this grand-scale adventure, available on DVD ($26.99 retail), Blu-ray ($34.99 retail), and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($38.99 retail).
MALI BLUES (Icarus Films Home Video): Documentary filmmaker Lutz Gregor makes his feature debut with this exploration of the contemporary musical culture of Mali, and the impact of the Muslim ban of popular music there. In French with English subtitles, available on DVD ($26.98 retail).
THE PENGUIN COUNTERS (First Run Features): This picturesque documentary feature follows scientist Ron Naveen, who gave up a legal practice to march with the penguins as a penguin counter – one who monitors the penguin population in Antarctica on an annual basis to examine how climate change, pollution, and other factors affect them. **½
PLASTIC PARADISE: THE GREAT PACIFIC GARBAGE PATCH (Icarus Films Home Video): Producer/director/cinematographer Angela Sun’s award-winning documentary feature explores the history of plastic and its environmental consequences, and the history of Midway Atoll, which has become a gigantic garbage dump, available on DVD ($24.98 retail).
“PRETTY LITTLE LIARS”: THE SEVENTH AND FINAL SEASON (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): The deception deepens, the mystery mounts, and events come to a head in the seemingly bucolic Pennsylvania burg of Rosewood, in all 20 episodes from the 2016-’17 (and final) season of the award-winning Freeform drama based on Sara Shepard’s best-selling novels, available on DVD ($49.99 retail), replete with bonus content for series fans. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has also released the self-explanatory 36-DVD “Pretty Little Liars: The Complete Series” ($209.99 retail), boasting all 160 episodes plus special features.
PSYCHOANALYSIS (Candy Factory Films): In writer/producer/director James Raue’s award-winning debut feature, he plays a documentary filmmaker (named “James Raue”) who follows Benedict Wall, playing a psychologist consumed by paranoia and uncertainty when his patients begin committing suicide. The mock-documentary format is interesting, if somehow counter-productive (where did the music score come from?), and the narrative is overly convoluted. Still, Raue is a talent to watch. **
THE STENDHAL SYNDROME (Blue Underground/CAV Distributing): A limited-edition, three-disc DVD/Blu-ray combo ($39.98 retail) of Dario Argento’s award-winning 1996 adaptation of Graziella Magherini’s novel (originally titled La sindrome di Stendhal) starring daughter Asia as a detective traumatized after being raped by the serial killer she’s pursuing. In retrospect, one of Argento’s best films (certainly of that period), with Asia giving one of her best performances, a fine score by Ennio Morricone, and sumptuous cinematography by Giuseppe Rotunno (his last narrative feature before retiring). Special features include audio commentary, retrospective interviews and more. ***
“TELETUBBIES: BUBBLES” (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): A self-explanatory DVD collection ($12.78 retail) of six episodes from the revamped DHX Media children’s series (aired on Nick Jr.).
UNFORGETTABLE (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): Producer Denise Di Novi’s R-rated directorial debut stars Katherine Heigl as an unstable woman who methodically terrorizes Rosario Dawson, the new fiancee of her ex-husband (Geoff Stultz), available on DVD ($28.98 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($35.99 retail).
THE UNTOUCHABLES: THE SCARFACE MOB (CBS DVD/Paramount): Robert Stack first essayed the role of Eliot Ness in this award-winning, fast-moving 1959 TV movie that served as the pilot for The Untouchables and was later released to theaters. The baddies are Neville Brand’s Al Capone and Bruce Gordon’s Frank Nitti, with Keenan Wynn, Barbara Nichols, Pat Crowley, Joe Mantell, and Walter Winchell providing his trademark staccato narration. The DVD retails for $16.99. ***
VINCE GIORDANO: THERE’S A FUTURE IN THE PAST (First Run Features): Cinematographer Dave Davidson and editor Amber Edwards wrote, produced and directed this enjoyable, award-winning, tune-filled documentary feature tracing the career of music historian, collector and performer Vince Giordano, front-man for The Nighthawks, who specialize in the vintage big-band sound. ***
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2017, Mark Burger)