Video Vault – Jun 20, 2018
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
PICK OF THE WEEK
TRADING PLACES (Paramount): Principally remembered as an early star turn for Eddie Murphy (all of 22 at the time), this 1983 screwball comedy also ranks as a high point for top-billed Dan Aykroyd, director John Landis, and a fabulous supporting cast including Jamie Lee Curtis, Ralph Bellamy, Don Ameche, and Denholm Elliott.
Bellamy and Ameche’s imperious and immensely wealthy Duke Brothers decide to test a sociological theory by financially ruining Louis Winthorpe III (Aykroyd), the managing director of their brokerage firm, leaving him destitute and homeless, while installing street hustler Billy Ray Valentine (Murphy) in his place. Aykroyd and Murphy expertly convey their contrasting situations in fine, farcical fashion – backed by an unflappable Elliott as the faithful butler Coleman, and a scintillating Curtis as Ophelia, the proverbial hooker with a heart of gold.
Ostensibly a contemporary (and R-rated) mash-up of Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper and Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, Trading Places is still fresh and funny, and still a stellar showcase for its makers … and those great Philadelphia locations don’t hurt, either!
The 35th-anniversary Blu-ray ($14.99 retail) includes featurettes and more. Rated R. ***½
“THE BEST OF AGATHA CHRISTIE” (Acorn TV): The title tells all in the latest pair of DVD compilations of Agatha Christie TV adaptations: “Volume Three” ($39.99 retail) includes Partners in Crime: The Secret Adversary (2015) starring David Walliams, Jessica Raine and Clarke Peters, Ordeal by Innocence (2007) starring Geraldine McEwan as Miss Marple, with Jane Seymour, Juliet Stevenson, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Richard Armitage, and The Hollow (2004) starring David Suchet as Hercule Poirot, with Edward Fox and Jonathan Cake; and “Volume Three” ($39.99 retail) includes The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1990) and Dead Man’s Folly (2014) both starring Suchet as Poirot, and The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side (2010) and A Caribbean Mystery (2014) both starring Julia McKenzie as Miss Marple.
THE BIG COUNTRY (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): William Wyler’s sprawling 1958 horse opera, based on Donald Hamilton’s serialized novel Ambush at Blanco Canyon, stars Gregory Peck (who produced the film with Wyler) as a retired sea captain drawn into a violent family feud between ranch patriarchs Burl Ives and Charles Bickford, with Charlton Heston, Jean Simmons, Carroll Baker, Chuck Connors, and Alfonso Bedoya (in his final film) caught in the crossfire. Beautifully shot by cinematographer Franz F. Planer and well-acted, with political allegory worked into the narrative, but awfully long. Nevertheless, Dwight Eisenhower considered it his favorite film, Ives won the Oscar as Best Supporting Actor, and Jerome Moross’ score earned a nomination. Both the 60th-anniversary DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) include audio commentary, retrospective interviews, the Emmy-nominated 1986 documentary Directed by William Wyler, and more. ***
BODY OF DECEIT (FilmRise/MVD Entertainment Group): Director Alessandro Capone’s steamy but stupid 2014 psycho-sexual thriller, inspired (none too nimbly) by Jean Genet’s Les Bonnes, stars Kristanna Loken as a ghost-writer who returns with husband Antonio Cupo to the Maltese village where she suffered a car accident the year before, only for her to be seduced by comely housekeeper Sarai Givati, while scruffy Giulio Berruti lurks in the background. Unappealing characters, dull scripting, and idiotic plot twists (some of which are telegraphed well in advance) are the real culprits here. Rated R. *
BOY UNDONE (TLA Releasing): Leopoldo Laborde’s Spanish-language drama (originally titled Memorias de lo que no fue) stars newcomers Paul Act and Eduoardo Longoria as male lovers embroiled in mystery when one inexplicably suffers amnesia after their first encounter, available on DVD ($24.99 retail).
COMING TO AMERICA (Paramount): After Trading Places (see above), Eddie Murphy and director John Landis reunited for this overlong, overblown 1988 comedy starring Murphy as an African prince who comes to America to find a wife, joined by best friend and minder Arsenio Hall. Relations between the star and director were not as congenial as before, and author and humorist Art Buchwald sued the studio for appropriating a script treatment he’d written years before, but this was still a hit and boasts many familiar faces in support: John Amos (very funny), Eriq La Salle (also very funny), James Earl Jones, Madge Sinclair, Shari Headley (her screen debut), Samuel L. Jackson, Frankie Faison, Calvin Lockhart, Louie Anderson, Vondie Curtis-Hall (his screen debut), Cuba Gooding Jr. (his screen debut), and cameos by Trading Places‘ Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche. Murphy and Hall are much fun in their multiple cameo roles than their leading ones. Oscar nominations for Best Makeup and Best Costume Design. The 30th-anniversary Blu-ray ($14.99 retail) includes vintage interviews and featurettes. Rated R. **
THE DEBT COLLECTOR (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Director/co-writer Jesse V. Johnson’s slick shoot-’em-up pairs Scott Adkins (also an executive producer) as a struggling martial-arts instructor who supplements his income by teaming up with grizzled debt collector Louis Mandylor, with Michael Pare, Tony Todd, Selina Lo, Robert Rusler, and Vladimir Kulich along for the ride. There’s a bit more heart and humor to be savored, with Adkins and Mandylor exhibiting good chemistry – and occasionally channeling Steve Coogan and Harvey Keitel, respectively, in their scenes together. Rated R. **½
EVERY DAY (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): This PG-13-rated adaptation of David Levithan’s best-selling novel is a romantic fantasy starring Agourie Rice as a teenager smitten with a mysterious being known as “A” who inhabits a different body every day — which understandably causes major complications, available on DVD ($28.98 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($35.99 retail).
FRANK & EVA (Cult Epics/CAV Distributing): Writer/director Pim de la Parra’s 1973 Dutch-language erotic melodrama (originally titled Frank en Eva) depicts the domestic discord that transpires between titular swingers Hugo Metsers and Willeke van Ammelrooy because of his incessant womanizing and her unexpected pregnancy. This odd curio, filmed in Amsterdam, marked the screen debut of Sylvia Kristel, soon to find international fame as Emmanuelle (1974) – the success of which certainly didn’t hurt this film at the box-office. The DVD/Blu-ray combo ($34/.95 retail) includes audio commentary, original trailers, and more. **
HOOKED (Breaking Glass Pictures): Writer/executive producer/director Max Emerson’s laudable feature debut offers a sympathetic portrait of teen-aged hustler Conor Donnally (in his feature debut) as he struggles to survive on the streets of New York, then catches the eye of married businessman Terrance Murphy. Echoing the work of Paul Schrader and Larry Clark, this is a sincere and credible dramatization of contemporary LGBTQ issues that (thankfully) refrains from preaching. Donnally is striking, and Sean Ormond (in his feature debut) equally impressive as his onscreen boyfriend. ***
“THE IT’S ALIVE TRILOGY” (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): A self-explanatory Blu-ray collection ($49.97 retail) of Larry Cohen’s cult-classic sci-fi shockers about mutant babies at large: The original PG-rated (!) It’s Alive (1974), which became a box-office hit after Cohen persuaded Warner Bros. to re-release the film in 1977; the R-rated 1978 follow-up It Lives Again, and the satirical, R-rated conclusion It’s Alive III: Island of the Alive (1987), which was originally made for the home-video market. Special features include audio commentary on all three films, retrospective interviews, trailers, and more.
MOTHERLAND (FilmRise/MVD Entertainment Group): Ramona S. Diaz’s award-winning documentary feature (originally titled Bayang Ina Mo) offers an in-depth exploration of the Dr. Jose Fabella Hospital in the Philippines, arguably the world’s busiest maternity hospital – which happens to be located in the heart of one of the world’s most populated but impoverished countries on Earth. In Tagalog with English subtitles, available on DVD ($19.95 retail).
NINJA III: THE DOMINATION (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Poltergeist (1982) meets Flashdance (1983) in this jaw-dropping 1984 martial-arts extravaganza, starring Lucinda Dickey (the beauty from from Breakin’) as a telephone linewoman and part-time aerobics instructor possessed by the spirit of an evil ninja, prompting a murderous rampage while she’s pursued by good ninja Sho Kosugi. Produced by the inimitable Cannon Films duo of Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, this cult favorite is a (very) guilty pleasure. The collector’s-edition Blu-ray ($27.99 retail) includes audio commentary, retrospective interviews, and more. Rated R. **
OUR BLOOD IS WINE (Music Box Films Home Entertainment): Director/cinematographer Emily Railsback (making her feature debut) joins – and films — renowned sommelier Jeremy Quinn as he visits the former Soviet province of Georgia to learn first-hand about the farmers’ long-standing tradition of making wine, from which they glean great pride and satisfaction in their hard work. This picturesque, even friendly, documentary offers both a glimpse into the practice and also the history of the region. In English and German with English subtitles. ***
SATELLITE GIRL AND MILK COW (GKIDS/Shout! Factory): Award-winning writer/director Chang Hyung-yun’s debut feature (originally titled Uribyeo Ilho-wa Eollukso) is a fantasy fable in which the titular heroes (voiced by Jung Yu-mi and Yoo Ah-in, respectively) are paired together to battle a monstrous being. In Korean with English subtitles, available on DVD ($16.97 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($26.99 retail), each boasting bonus features.
“SIX FILMS BY NIKOLAUS GEYRHALTER” (Icarus Films Home Video): A self-explanatory, seven-disc collection ($74.98 retail) of acclaimed documentaries made by the award-winning Austrian filmmaker: Pripyat (1999), Elsewhere (2001), Our Daily Bread (2005), Abendland (2011), Over the Years (2015) and Homo Sapiens (2016), plus special features including collectible booklet and theatrical trailers.
TOMB RAIDER (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures/Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): A fit and fetching Alicia Vikander tackles the rebooted role of adventurer Lara Croft in this action-packed but empty-headed adaptation of the popular video game. There has never been a good movie based on a video game, and this is yet another case in point – although it’s fairly painless. Dominic West, Walton Goggins, Daniel Wu, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Derek Jacobi (picking up an easy check) round out the cast, 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 boasting bonus features. Rated PG-13. **
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2018, Mark Burger)