Video Vault – Mar 15, 2017
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
DVD PICK OF THE WEEK
FIRESTARTER (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Critics weren’t kind to this 1984 adaptation of Stephen King’s best-seller – nor, for that matter, was Stephen King – but the novel was hardly his best and the film is popcorn sci-fi entertainment as only executive producer Dino De Laurentiis could deliver: High concept, all-star cast, big hype.
Drew Barrymore is perfectly cast in the title role, Charlie McGee, a young girl who possesses “pyrokinesis” (the ability to start fires, in case you were wondering). On the lam with father Andy (David Keith), they are pursued by the shadowy government organization known as “the Shop,” led by Cap Hollister (an affably villainous Martin Sheen), who taps psychopathic Native American assassin John Rainbird (a deliriously over-the-top George C. Scott) to capture them.
Stanley Mann’s screenplay is quite faithful to King’s novel, and director Mark L. Lester keeps things moving along at a steady clip. Firestarter may not be a great film, but it’s great fun and it moves. The classy cast includes Art Carney and Louise Fletcher as a friendly farm couple, Freddie Jones and Moses Gunn as Shop scientists, and Heather Locklear (in his screen debut) as Charlie’s ill-fated mother. Tangerine Dream’s evocative score is excellent.
The collector’s-edition Blu-ray ($34.93 retail) includes audio commentary, retrospective documentary and interviews, and more. Rated R. ***
4TH MAN OUT (FilmRise/MVD Entertainment Group): Director Andrew Nackman’s award-winning debut feature stars executive producer Evan Todd as a small-town mechanic who comes out of the closet, much to the surprise of his best friend (Parker Young) and their party-hearty buddies (Chord Overstreet and Jon Gabrius). Funny, smart and insightful – a little gem. ***
THE BRAND NEW TESTAMENT (Music Box Films Home Entertainment): Jaco Van Dormael’s imaginative, wildly irreverent and award-winning black comedy (originally titled Le tout nouveau testament) stars Benoit Poelvoorde as a rude, ill-tempered God, whose abusive behavior compels his young daughter (Pili Groyne) to come to Earth, round up her own (eclectic) group of apostles, and fashion the title missive. This may be the only movie in which Catherine Deneuve (surely one of God’s perfect creatures) sleeps with a gorilla, so it’s definitely not for everyone! In French and German with English subtitles, available on DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($34.95 retail). ***
CASABLANCAS: THE MAN WHO LOVED WOMEN (First Run Features): Writer/director Hubert Woroniecki’s self-explanatory documentary feature (originally titled Casablancas: l’homme qui aimait les femmes) explores the life of John Casablancas (1942-2013), who himself recounts his career as the fashion mastermind who create the Elite modeling agency and propelled such models as Cindy Crawford, Patti Hansen, Carol Alt, Christie Brinkley, Paulina Porizkova, Stephanie Seymour, Iman and many others to “supermodel” status. Casblancas’ widow Aline served as executive producer for this documentary, which includes rare home movies and vintage archival footage. **½
COLD WAR 2 (Well Go USA Entertainment): Writer/directors Longman Leung and Sunny Luk’s sequel to the 2012 action hit reunites Aaron Kwok as a police commissioner and Tony Leung as a former rival who must join forces to thwart a kidnapping. Returning cast members Charlie Young, Eddie Peng, Aarif Rahman, Ma Yili and Alex Tsui are joined by Chow Yun-Fat, Janice Man and Tony Yang. In Cantonese with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.98 retail).
“CORP & ANAM: SEASONS 1 & 2” (MHz Networks): A three-DVD collection ($39.95 retail) of all four episodes from the inaugural 2011 season and all four episodes from the final 2014 season of the award-winning TG4 drama series focusing on TV crime reporter Diarmuid de Faoite as he scours the underworld – and the establishment – for hard-hitting stories in contemporary Ireland. In Irish-Gaelic with English subtitles.
DELUGE (Kino Lorber): The first disaster film of the sound era, this 1933 adaptation of S. Fowler Wright’s novel sees a series of earthquakes in California giving rise to a massive tsunami headed toward New York City, with Sidney Blackmer, Peggy Shannon, Lois Wilson and Edward Van Sloan in harm’s way. Thought to be a lost film for years, it’s now been digitally restored as a special-edition DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail).
DEMON SEED (Warner Archive): Director Donald Cammell’s fascinating and chilly 1977 adaptation of Dean Koontz’s best-seller stars Julie Christie as a woman trapped in her futuristic house by a super-computer called Proteus (voiced by Robert Vaughn), which was created by her estranged husband (Fritz Weaver) and now seeks to procreate, now available on Blu-ray ($21.99 retail) exclusively through HYPERLINK “https://www.warnerarchive.com/”https://www.warnerarchive.com/. Rated R. ***
THE EYES OF MY MOTHER (Magnet Label/Magnolia Home Entertainment): Writer/editor/director Nicolas Pesce’s cold-blooded, twisted, award-winning psychological shocker stars Kika Magalhaes as a disturbed young woman whose remote home in the Portuguese countryside becomes a house of horrors after a series of traumatic events lead her into madness. With overtones of cannibalism and necrophilia, this is certainly not for all tastes – but it does pack a wallop. In his feature debut, Zach Kuperstein’s black-and-white cinematography is a major asset. The DVD retails for $26.98, the Blu-ray for $29.98. Rated R. ***
JOE BULLET (The Film Detective): In the title role, Ken Gampu plays a two-fisted tough guy aiding a soccer team threatened by hoodlums in this low-budget “blaxploitation” melodrama, the first South African film boasting a predominantly black cast. The feature debut of writer/producer Tonie van der Merwe and the only feature directed by cinematographer Louis de Witt, this was produced in 1971, briefly released in 1973, then banned by the Apartheid government for decades. More interesting as a historical artifact as entertainment, with Gampu the only actor to deliver anything resembling a professional performance. There’s even a theme song (by “Silver Threads”), and apparently there was a sequel, Bullet on the Run (1982). The DVD ($14.99 retail) includes an audio commentary. *½
JOHN APPLE JACK (Skycorner Entertainment Ltd./CAV Distributing Corp.): Director/co-producer/story editor Monika Mitchell’s award-winning romantic comedy stars Chris McNally (in his feature debut) as a promiscuous gay playboy who discovers his sister’s fiancee (Kent S. Leung) is his secret childhood crush, available on DVD ($19.98 retail)
KING COBRA (IFC Midnight/Shout! Factory): Director/screenwriter Justin Kelly’s award-winning adaptation of Andrew E. Stoner and Peter A. Conway’s true-crime best-seller Killer Cobra stars Christian Slater as an on-line porn producer who makes a star of teen-ager Garrett Clayton, only to fall out with him and become the target of two unstable rivals (Keegan Allen and producer James Franco) who want Clayton for their own productions. Flashy and well-acted (particularly by Slater), but remains surface-level throughout. Alicia Silverstone and Molly Ringwald also appear. The DVD/Blu-ray combo retails for $29.99. **½
THE KING OF NEW ORLEANS (Candy Factory Films): The award-winning feature debut of filmmaker Allen Frederic (co-directed with the duo “Coodie & Chickie”) affords David Jensen a stellar showcase in the title role of a middle-aged cabbie through whose eyes we see New Orleans, before and after Hurricane Katrina, augmented by Nathan Tape’s bluesy cinematography. What this lacks in budget or polish it makes up for in heart, inspiration and Big Easy flavor. ***
OFFICER DOWNE (Magnet Label/Magnolia Home Entertainment): Kim Coates plays the title role in this R-rated sci-fi thriller based on the 2010 graphic novel, a Los Angeles cop resurrected from the dead to continue his one-man war on crime, available on DVD ($26.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.98 retail).
THE SOUND OF REDEMPTION: THE FRANK MORGAN STORY (Kino Lorber): Writer/director N.C. Heiken’s documentary chronicles the life of alto sax legend Frank Morgan (1933-2007), considered by many to be Charlie Parker’s heir apparent … right down to a heroin addiction that led to long periods of incarceration. The biography is bookended by a tribute concert held at San Quentin – where Morgan did time. Illuminating and thorough, and the music is fabulous. ***
“SUSPECTS”: SERIES 5 (RLJ Entertainment/Acorn): A two-DVD collection ($39.99 retail) of all six episodes from the 2016 season of the popular, unscripted British crime series with Damien Molony and Clare-Hope Ashitey as a detectives determined to solve the murder of a trusted colleague (departing series regular Fay Ripley), with James Murray, Lenora Crichlow and Perry Fitzpatrick joining the team.
WE ARE THE FLESH (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): Writer/producer/editor/director Emiliano Rocha Minter’s award-winning debut feature (originally titled Tenemos la carne) is set in an apocalypse-ravaged future stars newcomers Maria Evoli and Diego Gamaliel as siblings forced to assist a deranged hermit (Noe Hernandez) build a sanctuary in which he is the uncontested master. In Spanish with English subtitles, available on DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) – both with bonus features.
(Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2017, Mark Burger) HYPERLINK “mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org”email@example.com