email@example.comDVD PICK OF THE WEEK: THE SWEEENEY (Entertainment One)
The popular ’70s British TV series gets a first-rate screen update in this crackling, stylish police thriller that adds more firepower and more profanity yet stays true to the spirit of the series.Under the assured direction of Nick Love, the story follows London’s “Flying Squad,” which specializes in armed robberies and violent crimes, and its leader, Jack Regan (Ray Winstone), the sort of old-school, hard-boiled cop who shoots first and asks questions later. Not only is Jack having an affair with a member of his team (Hayley Atwell), but she happens to be married to the internal affairs investigator (Steven Mackintosh) bent on busting him.In a fierce, fiery performance that ranks among his best, Winstone owns this movie, and he gets solid support from singer Ben Drew as his faithful partner George Carter, whose worship curdles when their latest case seemingly goes awry, and Damian Lewis as Haskins, the tight-lipped (but not unsympathetic) supervisor of the Sweeney. The action is ferocious and breathless, particularly a daylight shoot-out in London that recalls Michael Mann’s Heat (1995), and a rough, tough car-chase climax. As cop movies go, The Sweeney delivers the goods – in spades. Rated R.
13 EERIE (Entertainment One): Gory but generic zombie shocker in which six FBI trainees attend a forensics expedition on a remote island and battle undead convicts. Originally titled Eerie Straits — but a dud by any name — the characters are so clumsy and stupid it’s a wonder they can spell “FBI.” A late detour into black comedy is too little too late.
DEATH PENALTY.COM/DEATH PENAL- TY.COM: A NEW BEGINNING (Danger After Dark): A diabolical double-feature ($17.99 retail) of the 2011 shocker and its immediate sequel (both directed by Ryota Sakamaki), about a website that offers to bump off one’s enemies — but not without a steep price to pay. In Japanese with English subtitles.
THE DEVIL’S IN THE DETAILS (Image Entertainment): Writer/director Waymon Boone’s dire feature debut stars Joel Mathews as an ex-soldier forced by mobster (and executive producer) Emilio Rivera into smuggling drugs across the border. Mathews spends most of the movie being tortured and/or yelling into his cellphone. Raymond J Barry (as Mathews’ father) is wasted, and only Ray Liotta (as Mathews’ therapist) exhibits any life. Rated R.
DOWN THE SHORE (Anchor Bay Entertainment): James Gandolfini returns to the Garden State for this R-rated drama about three New Jersey friends whose lives come undone when a secret from their past comes to light. The DVD retails for $22.98, the Bluray for $24.99.
FAIRY IN A CAGE (Impulse Pictures): Produced by Japan’s durable (100+ years) Nikkatsu Studios, director Kou Ohara’s 1977 softcore opus (originally titled Ori No Naka No Yosei) involves the torture of political prisoners — mostly nubile young women (including Naomi Tani) — subjected to all sorts of indignities — mostly sexual — during World War II. Not very erotic, and vaguely reminiscent of Tinto Brass’ Salon Kitty (1975), but the historical backdrop and Nobumasa Mizunoo’s striking cinematography lend interest. In Japanese with English subtitles.
“FEMME FATALES”: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (Entertainment One): A three-DVD boxed set ($29.98 retail) of all 14 episodes from the inaugural season of the steamy Cinemax anthology series inspired by pulp novels and film noir, often with a luscious and lethal leading lady — or two. Tanit Phoenix plays the (appropriately) alluring host, and guest stars include Kit Wilesee, Jordan Madley, Christine Donlon, Catherine Annette, Tiffany Brouwer, Paul Mazursky, Adam Goldberg and Richard Kind.
FEMALE TEACHER: IN FRONT OF THE STUDENTS (Impulse Pictures): In the title role, Rushia Santo single-handedly elevates this expectedly exploitative 1982 softcore melodrama from Nikkatsu Studios, about a young teacher who undergoes a series of sexual humiliations, some at the hands of her students. In Japanese with English subtitles.
GANDU (Artsploitation Films): Anubrata Basu plays the title role in this flashy, award-winning saga of an aspiring Indian rapper who descends into into a life of disillusionment, drugs and self-destruction. Extreme, even explicit, at times — enough to be banned in its native country — but the rap numbers are original and funny. In Bengali with English subtitles.
HEMINGWAY & GELLHORN (HBO Home Entertainment): Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman portray the title roles of Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn in director Philip Kaufman’s dramatization of their tumultuous life together, with David Strathairn, Parker Posey, Rodrigo Santoro, Molly Parker, Peter Coyote, Joan Chen and Tony Shalhoub in support. Emmy Award winner for Outstanding Music Composition and Outstanding Sound Editing, with 13 additional nominations including Outstanding Miniseries or Movie, Outstanding Directing, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie (Owen), Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie (Kidman) and Outstanding Supporting Actor (Strathairn). The DVD retails for $19.97, the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $24.99.
LOVE FREE OR DIE (Wolfe Video): Macky Alston’s heartfelt, award-winning feature documentary follows the life of Gene Robinson, the first openly gay clergyman who was elected bishop in New Hampshire in 2003, sparking inevitable controversy. The film, which screened at the 2012 RiverRun International Film Festival, works best when it focuses more on Robinson and less on the controversy.
MONSTER (One 7 Movies/CAV Distributing): This atmospheric 1953 Mexican chiller (originally titled Il Monstruoso Dottor Crimen) stars Miroslava as a young journalist who becomes the obsession of a misshapen mad scientist (Jose Maria Linares-Riva). Reminiscent of the old Universal horror films, this was so successful it sparked a series of similar south-of-the-border shockers. In Spanish with English subtitles.
THE OTHER SON (Cohen Media Group) Director/co-screenwriter Lorraine Levy’s topical, award-winning drama (originally titled Le fils de l’autre) stars Jules Sitruk as a young Israeli who discovers he was accidentally switched at birth with a Palestinian (Mehdi Dehbi). In French with English subtitles. Rated PG-13.
SHAKESPEARE: THE KING’S MAN (Athena) American scholar James Shapiro traces the history of Shakespeare’s plays — and the history in which they were written — in this three-part documentary mini-series ($39.99 retail), which also includes the BBC production of Macbeth (1983) starring Nicol Williamson in the title role.
THIS IS 40 (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): Judd Apatow’s comedy sees Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann reprising their roles from Knocked Up (2009), as a California couple trying to juggle career, family and relationship. That Mann is Apatow’s real-life wife and their real-life daughters Maude and Iris play the couple’s daughters would indicate some semblance of an autobiographical aspect, but that doesn’t justify the bloated running time. This is 40 minutes too long — at least. Albert Brooks stands out in a star-studded supporting cast. Rated R.
“VEEP”: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEA- SON (HBO Home Entertainment): Julia- Louis Dreyfus scored the Emmy Award as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for her performance as Selina Meyer, the nation’s first female vice-president, in all eight episodes from the inaugural 2012 season of the HBO comedy series, which earned additional Emmy nominations for Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding Casting for a Comedy Series. The DVD boxed set retails for $39.98, the Blu-ray boxed set for $49.99.
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2013, Mark Burger.