DVD PICK OF THE WEEK:
ALL THAT JAZZ
(The Criterion Collection)
Legendary choreographer/director Bob Fosse looked no further than himself as inspiration for this dazzling, dynamic 1979 musical drama that remains quintessential Fosse — innovation, brilliance, indulgences, self-indulgences and all.
Roy Scheider (his finest hour) plays Joe Gideon, a legendary choreographer/director waging a losing battle in balancing work and play. He’s overworked, over-medicated and oversexed — yet can’t help being a genius. The parallels to Fosse’s own life are unmistakable, yet this is one example where style and substance are perfectly melded. There’s never been a movie quite like All That Jazz, before or since.
Ann Reinking, Jessica Lange, Leland Palmer, Cliff Gorman, John Lithgow, Ben Vereen, newcomer Erzsebet Foldi and a host of familiar New York actors lend Scheider sterling support as the film confidently veers from comedy to tragedy and back again, with superb musical interludes along the way. The opening sequence to George Benson’s “On Broadway” is a classic, and the climactic number “Bye Bye Life” is, fittingly, a show-stopper — in more ways than one.
All That Jazz won four Academy Awards: Best Editing, Costume Design, Art Direction/ Set Decoration and Original Song Score, with nominations for Best Picture, Director, Actor, Original Screenplay and Cinematography. The film also shared the 1980 Palme d’Or at Cannes with Kurosawa’s Kagemusha.
The DVD/Blu-ray combo ($39.95 retail) includes audio commentary with Oscar-winning editor Alan Heim, retrospective and vintage interviews, and more. Rated R.
AMERICAN JESUS (Shelter Island/ TDC Entertainment): Aram Garriga edited, produced and directed this feature documentary ($19.98 retail) that examines Christianity’s place — and, indeed, prominence — in contemporary American life.
THE ANONYMOUS PEOPLE (Alive Mind Cinema/Kino Lorber): This feature documentary ($29.95 retail) looks at the millions of Americans in recovery from addiction to drugs and alcohol and how they also contend with discrimination and misconceptions about recovery, featuring interviews with actress/author Kristen Johnston, authors William Cope Moyers and William White, Miss USA 2006 Tara Conner, politicians Patrick Kennedy and Jim Ramstad, and others.
ANY GIVEN SUNDAY (Warner Home Video): The 15th-anniversary “director’s cut” Blu-ray ($14.97 retail) of Oliver Stone’s typically overblown, overlong (but award-winning) 1999 pro-football saga, with Al Pacino in full rant as a veteran coach, a miscast Cameron Diaz as a new team owner and a better-than-usual Jamie Foxx as a hotshot young quarterback. For all the visceral visuals, the story is old-hat — despite a star-studded (sometimes high-volume) supporting cast including Dennis Quaid, James Woods, LL Cool J, Matthew Modine, Charlton Heston, Ann-Margret, Elizabeth Berkley, Bill Bellamy, Aaron Eckhart, Lauren Holly, Lela Rochon, Stone regular John C. McGinley, Lawrence Taylor (in his screen debut) and Jim Brown, who steals many a scene through sheer presence. Lots of bonus features including the original theatrical version, audio commentaries, music videos, outtakes and more. Rated R.
“BOARDWALK EMPIRE”: THE COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON (HBO Home Entertainment): Steve Buscemi’s back in action as Atlantic City power broker Nucky Thompson, in all 12 episodes from the 2013 season of the award-winning HBO series set during the Roaring Twenties. The regular cast includes Michael Shannon, Kelly Macdonald, Michael Stuhlbarg, Ron Livingston, Gretchen Mol and Jeffrey Wright. Martin Scorsese and Mark Wahlberg are among the executive producers. Director Tim Van Patten received the Emmy nomination for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series. The DVD collection retails for $59.99, the Blu-ray collection for $79.98. Each boasts extensive special features.
“CASE HISTORIES”: SERIES 2 (RLJ Entertainment/Acorn): Jason Isaacs returns as ex-cop-turned-private-investigator Jackson Brodie in all three featurelength episodes from the 2013 season of the award-winning BBC crime series based on Kate Atkinson’s best-selling novels and filmed on location in Scotland. The DVD collection ($39.99 retail) includes bonus interviews.
“THE DEAN MARTIN CELEBRITY ROASTS”: FULLY ROASTED (StarVista Entertainment/Time Life): A self explanatory six-DVD collection ($59.95 retail) containing 17 complete and unedited comedy roasts from the long-running series of NBC prime-time specials hosted by Dean Martin. Ronald Reagan (then California’s governor), Bette Davis, Muhammad Ali, Telly Savalas, George Burns and Sen. Barry Goldwater are among the roasted by guest stars including Orson Welles, Henry Fonda, James Stewart, Gene Kelly, Billy Crystal, Carroll O’Connor, Shelley Winters, Wilt Chamberlain, Jack Klugman, Howard Cosell and more.
GMO OMG (MPI Media Group): Filmmaker Jeremy Seifert examines the controversial use of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) and their use in scientifically altered, corporate-controlled foods in this documentary feature. The DVD retails for $24.98, the Blu-ray for $29.98.
JESSE (Arc Entertainment): Director/ producer/co-screenwriter Fred Carpenter’s boring, cliche-riddled (yet somehow award-winning!) showcase for stuntwoman and former pro wrestler Stephanie (“Trinity”) Finochio, in the title role of a hard-drinking cop who takes on the mob. A waste of time for all concerned, including William Forsythe, Armand Assante and Eric Roberts — and especially the viewer. Rated R. No stars
JIMMY P (IFC Films/MPI Media Group): Subtitled Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian, this well-acted adaptation of Georges Devereux’s book “Reality and Dream” stars Benicio Del Toro as a troubled Native American World War II veteran and Mathieu Almalric as his unorthodox but compassionate therapist. Occasionally meandering but sincere, this didn’t get much theatrical exposure but would have made a perfect cable premiere.
“LINE OF DUTY”: SERIES 2 (RLJ Entertainment/Acorn): A two-DVD collection ($39.99 retail) of six episodes from the 2014 season of the popular BBC crime series following the covert activities of AC-12, an elite police anti-corruption unit in Britain. Adrian Dunbar, Vicky McClure and Martin Compston head the regular cast.
“THE MIDNIGHT SPECIAL”: COLLECTOR’S EDITION (StarVista Entertainment/Time Life): A DVD collection of live performances from the popular, long-running (1972-’81) late-night NBC music show hosted much of the time by Wolfman Jack. Among the many luminaries who appeared or performed were David Bowie, the Bee Gees, Aerosmith, Alice Cooper, Electric Light Orchestra, Fleetwood Mac, John Denver, Earth Wind & Fire, and stand-up comedy performances by Steve Martin, Richard Pryor, Billy Crystal, George Carlin, Andy Kaufman and Freddie Prinze. The eight-DVD collection retails for $99.95 (130 performances), the six-DVD set (96 performances) retails for $59.95, the single DVD (16 performances) for $12.95.
SOME VELVET MORNING (Tribeca Film/Cinedigm): Neil LaBute’s talky two-hander stars Stanley Tucci and Alice Eve as a couple coming to terms with their relationship. The performances aren’t bad but this smacks too much of experimental theater. The big “twist” is hardly a surprise for those watching closely.
STAY (Kino Lorber): Screenwriter/ director Wiebke von Carolsfeld’s adaptation of Aislinn Hunter’s novel stars Aidan Quinn and Taylor Schilling as a couple who come to a crossroads in their relationship when she becomes pregnant.
The second half veers into soap-opera territory but sincere performances are a saving grace — Quinn, Schilling and Michael Ironside (as Schilling’s boozy father) — as is the splendid flavor of the Irish countryside.
“WORLDS TOGETHER” (Master Communications): A collection of educational documentaries that explore other countries and their cultures, including “Worlds Together: Cuba,” “Worlds Together: Ecuador” and “Worlds Together:
Colombia.” Each DVD retails for $29.95. !
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2014, Mark Burger.