Video Vault – Nov 2, 2016
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
DVD PICK OF THE WEEK
McCABE & MRS. MILLER (The Criterion Collection): Robert Altman’s 1971 Western, starring real-life couple Warren Beatty and Julie Christie, is truly a Western like no other — but probably more accurate than many.
Based on Edmund Naughton’s novel McCabe, the setting is Presbyterian Church, a ramshackle Pacific Northwestern mining town in the early days of the 20th century. Beatty’s McCabe is a seedy but ambitious gambler who goes into partnership with frontier madam Mrs. Miller (Christie). Their “business,” such as it is, is so successful that it attracts the unwanted attention of the mining company, who want to buy them out. When McCabe refuses, he seals his own fate.
Beautifully photographed by Vilmos Zsigmond and accentuated by Leonard Cohen’s mournful songs, the film subjugates many traditional trappings of the Western genre, seasoned with Altman’s patented cynicism and distrust of the system.
Although Beatty and Altman did not get along, the actor gives one of his best performances here, and Christie earned an Oscar nomination as Best Actress. A fine supporting cast includes many Altman regulars: Rene Auberjonois, Michael Murphy, Shelley Duvall, Hugh Millais (in his screen debut), John Schuck, Bert Remsen, Corey Fischer and Keith Carradine (in his screen debut).
Both the DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) include audio commentary, documentary, retrospective and vintage interviews, and more. Rated R. ***½
BEYOND VALKYRIE: DAWN OF THE FOURTH REICH (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Sean Patrick Flanery and Kip Pardue lead an OSS mission into enemy territory on the eve of the attempted assassination of Adolf Hitler in this hackneyed, standard-issue World War II yarn that borrows from any number of earlier, better films (Force 10 from Navarone, Das Boot, both versions of The Inglorious Bastards), laden with CGI effects (lukewarm at best), and a supporting cast including Rutger Hauer, Julie Engelbrecht, Pasha Lychnikoff, Eric Ladin, Michael Epp, and (briefly) Tom Sizemore and Stephen Lang. Rated R. *½
BREAKING A MONSTER (RLJ Entertainment): Luke Meyer’s rock documentary traces the meteoric rise to fame of the band Unlocking the Truth, whose members (Alex Atkins, Malcolm Brickhouse and Jarad Dawkins) are barely in their teens, yet they’ve opened for Guns N’ Roses, Motorhead, Queens of the Stone Age, Living Colour, and the were youngest band to perform at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, available on DVD ($27.97 retail).
GENIUS (LionsGate): The friendship between editor Maxwell Perkins (Colin Firth) and author Thomas Wolfe (Jude Law) is dramatized in producer/director Michael Grandage’s interesting but melodramatic feature debut, based on A. Scott Berg’s biography Max Perkins: Editor of Genius, as fedora-clad Firth’s low-key performance is offset by Law’s florid, Southern-fried turn, although Nicole Kidman (as Wolfe’s demanding wife) and Laura Linney (as Perkins’ patient wife) are good in support. Guy Pearce and Dominic West appear briefly as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, respectively. Rated PG-13. **½
HILLARY’S AMERICA: THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY (LionsGate): Conservative filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza’s customarily one-sided documentary explores the history of the Democratic Party while offering a constant condemnation of Hillary Clinton’s run for the Presidency. Alas (for him), D’Souza cannot vote due to a 2014 conviction for campaign finance fraud. The DVD retails for $19.98, the Blu-ray for $24.99. Rated PG-13. *
THE LAST KING (Magnet Label/Magnolia Home Entertainment): Director Nils Gaup’s fact-based, R-rated historical spectacle (originally titled Birkebeinerne) stars Jakob Oftebro and Kristofer Hivju as soldiers charged with transporting an infant monarch to safety in early 13th-century Norway. In Norwegian with English subtitles, available on DVD ($26.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.98 retail).
“NCIS”: THE THIRTEENTH SEASON (CBS DVD/Paramount): Mark Harmon and his crack team from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service are back in action in all 24 episodes from the 2015-’16 season of the award-winning CBS mystery series which spawned a spate of “NCIS” series’ in its wake, now available on DVD ($55.98 retail) – replete with special features.
ONE NATION UNDER TRUMP (Ruthless/MVD Entertainment Group): Quickie documentary tracing Donald Trump’s run for the Presidency. Neither a condemnation or an endorsement, this is basically The Donald speaking for himself in interviews and debates. **
“THE PRESIDENTS COLLECTION” (LionsGate): The DVD collection ($14.98 retail) of the eight-part History Channel documentary series, narrated by Edward Herrmann, which profiles the Presidents of the United States from George Washington to Barack Obama.
“REIGN”: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): The 16th-century reign of Mary, Queen of Scots (Adelaide Kane) forms the backdrop for the award-winning CW historical drama series, with Megan Follows (as Catherine de’ Medici), Anna Popplewell, Craig Parker, Amy Brenneman, Rachel Skarsten (as Queen Elizabeth) and Donald’s son Rossif Sutherland (as Nostradamus) vying for power, in all 18 episodes from the 2015-’16 season, available on DVD ($39.99 retail).
“SCORPION”: SEASON ONE (CBS DVD/Paramount): The timely topic of hi-tech espionage is dramatized in this CBS series with Elyes Gabel, Katharine McPhee, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Jadyn Wong, Ari Stidham and Robert Patrick. All 24 episodes from the inaugural 2014-’15 season are available on DVD ($64.99 retail), replete with special features.
SPACEMAN (Kino Lorber): Writer/producer/director Brett Rapkin’s feature debut follows his 2006 documentary debut Spaceman: A Baseball Odyssey, with executive producer Josh Duhamel winningly playing real-life pitcher Bill “Spaceman” Lee, as known for his wild and wacky (and weed-filled) lifestyle as his pitching prowess, in this adaptation of Lee and Dick Dennis’ non-fiction book The Wrong Stuff, which dramatizes the period following Lee’s release by the Montreal Expos. W. Earl Brown plays Dennis, and Ron Shelton and Lee were also executive producers. Nice to see the Orion Pictures logo, too. ***
UNDER THE SUN (Icarus Films): Writer/director Vitaliy Manskiy award-winning feature documentary (originally titled V paprscich slunce) follows a year in the life of a North Korean family whose young daughter is preparing to join the government-mandated Children’s Union. In Korean with English subtitles, available on DVD ($29.95 retail).
VALLEY OF THE DOLLS (The Criterion Collection): Director Mark Robson’s appropriately tawdry 1967 adaptation of Jacqueline Susann’s equally trashy best-seller follows three young beauties (Barbara Parkins, Patty Duke and Sharon Tate) as they navigate the perilous waters of show-biz, with Susan Hayward (who replaced Judy Garland), Lee Grant, Paul Burke and Martin Milner swept up in the overblown, high-pitched melodrama. Critics had a field day, but the film was a box-office smash and John Williams’ score earned him the first of 43 Oscar nominations. Look fast for Susann as a reporter and Richard Dreyfuss in his screen debut. Both the DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) include audio commentary, retrospective interviews and more. The Criterion Collection also released the unrelated and mind-boggling 1970 Russ Meyer/Roger Ebert collaboration Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (which was originally rated X) on DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($39.95 retail). **
WHEN JUSTICE ISN’T JUST (First Run Features): David Massey’s topical and depressing documentary examines the well-publicized incidences where unarmed blacks have been killed by law-enforcement officers. Trying to present an overview of the situation, as opposed to focusing on a specific case, tends to fragment this undeniably well-intentioned film – but it’s still worthy. **½
(Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2016, Mark Burger) HYPERLINK “mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org”email@example.com