DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: MAGICAL UNIVERSE (IFC Films)
Who is Al Carbee and why would someone make a movie about him?
Both questions are answered in Jeremy Workman’s colorful, agreeably quirky documentary — a true original about a true original.
A chance encounter in late-’90s Maine between filmmaker Workman and Carbee, a reclusive and eccentric artist specializing in dioramas populated by Barbie dolls, led to Workman’s short film Carbee’s Barbies, and the beginning of a beautiful friendship, about which Workman quips: “I don’t have a living grandparent – especially a weird one!” Comparisons to Terry Zwigoff’s 1994 Crumb are not unwarranted, but as the title implies Magical Universe is more affectionate and whimsical. Thanks to Workman’s engaging chronicle, Al Carbee’s truly unique legacy will forever be preserved. The DVD retails for $24.98. ***
(For an exclusive interview with filmmaker Jeremy Workman, see Page 31)
BORDERLINE (Timeless Media Group): The topic of illegal immigration is tackled in this watchable, workmanlike and credible 1980 Charles Bronson vehicle in which he plays a rugged border patrolman trailing a killer. Lots of familiar folk here: Bruno Kirby, Bert Remsen, Michael Lerner, Kenneth McMillan, John Ashton, Norman Alden, Charles Cyphers and Ed Harris, in his first major screen role as the heavy. Rated PG.
BORN TO FLY: ELIZABETH STREB VS. GRAVITY (Kino Lorber): Director Catherine Gund’s award-winning documentary explores the career of choreographer Elizabeth Streb and the STREB Extreme Action Company, which elevates movement and dance to the ultimate level. The DVD retails for $29.95.
“BREAKING AMISH: LOS ANGE- LES” (Cinedigm): A three-DVD collection ($29.93 retail) of all 12 episodes from the 2013-’14 season of the TLC reality series following five young people from Amish or Mennonite backgrounds who follow their dreams to Los Angeles.
DEAD END KIDS GO TO WAR (Alpha Home Entertainment): Huntz Hall, Billy Halop, Gabriell Dell and the boys take the fight to Axis agents Lionel Atwill (playing Japanese!) and Turhan Bey in this flagwaving 1942 feature version of the serial Junior G-Men of the Air.
“DIGIMON TAMERS”: VOLUME 2 (Cinedigm): For all you “Digimon” devotees out there – you know who you are – this three-DVD collection ($19.99 retail) includes all 17 episodes from the 2001 season of the animated Japanese fantasy series based on the popular trading-card game.
FREE WILLY (Warner Home Video): The Blu-ray bow ($14.98 retail) of director Simon Wincer’s award-winning, surprise 1993 box-office hit detailing the friendship between a lonely boy (Jason James Richter in his screen debut) and a killer whale called “Willy.” Corny but appealing, and far superior to the two (inevitable) sequels. Rated PG.
I AM EVEL KNIEVEL (Virgil Films): The title tells all in Derik Murray and David Ray’s documentary feature tracing the life and career of motorcyclist and daredevil Evel Knievel (1938-2007), featuring footage of his legendary escapades and interviews with friends, family, and such admirers as Matthew McConaughey, Michelle Rodriguez, Kid Rock and Bob Einstein, whose “Super Dave Osborne” character was (clearly) influenced by Knievel. The DVD retails for $14.99, the Bluray for $19.99.
“LET’S LEARN: KINDNESS” (Nickelodeon/Paramount): A DVD compilation ($14.99 retail) of themed episodes from such popular Nickelodeon series’ as “Bubble Guppies,” “Dora the Explorer,” “Blue’s Clues,” “Team Umizoomi” and more.
“MAX & RUBY: SHARING & CAR- ING” (Nickelodeon/Paramount): A DVD collection ($14.99 retail) of 12 episodes from the long-running Nickelodeon cartoon series about a pair of sibling hare.
MONK WITH A CAMERA (Alive Mind Cinema/Kino Lorber): The title tells all in editor/directors Guido Santi and Tina Mascara’s documentary about Nicky Vreeland (grandson of Diana), who became a Tibetan Buddhist monk but indulged his passion for photography to raise money so he and his fellow monks could rebuild their monastery. The DVD retails for $29.95.
MYSTERIES OF THE UNSEEN WORLD (Virgil Films): Forest Whitaker narrates this acclaimed IMAX documentary produced by National Geographic Cinema Ventures, which examines things that are too small and too fast for humans to observe with the naked eye. The DVD/2-D & 3-D Blu-ray combo retails for $29.99.
“NICKELODEON LITTLE BIG MOV- IES” (Nickelodeon/Paramount): A trio of family-friendly DVD movies (each $12.99 retail) starring popular Nickelodeon cartoon characters: Dora the Explorer: Dora Saves Fairytale Land, Team Umizoomi: Umi Space Heroes and Dora’s Explorer Girls: Our First Concert.
OH YEAH? (Alpha Home Entertainment): Robert Armstrong and James Gleason are a pair of rail-riding roustabouts who find work, trouble and romance (with Patricia Caron and ZaSu Pitts) when they find work at a rail-yard in this pleasantly rambling 1929 comedy based on a Saturday Evening Post story. Armstrong and Gleason had been a popular comedy duo on Broadway and later hosted their own radio show, and Gleason and director Tay Garnett are credited here with “scenario and dialogue.” The title comes from the two characters’ frequent bickering.
“PETTICOAT JUNCTION: FAMILY FAVORITE EPISODES” (CBS DVD/Paramount): It’s back to the Shady Rest Motel for this self-explanatory DVD collection ($12.98 retail) of eight episodes from the 1964-’65 season of the popular CBS sitcom starring Bea Bendaret as Kate, a widow with three comely daughters, and Edgar Buchanan as lovably crusty Uncle Joe.
“TEXAS RANGERS: THE REAL STORIES” (LionsGate): A DVD collection ($14.98 retail) of three History Channel documentary specials tracing the history of the legendary lawmen: The Texas Rangers, The Fathers of Texas and The Enforcers: The Texas Rangers.
TIMBUKTU (Cohen Media Group): Abderrahmane Sissako’s topical, PG-13-rated drama in which the title region is invaded by by Islamic fundamentalists was much acclaimed and earned an Academy Award nomination as Best Foreign Language Film. In Arabic, French and Tamashek with English subtitles. The DVD retails for $24.98, the Blu-ray for $34.98.
TIMETABLE (Alpha Home Entertainment): Mark Stevens directs and stars in this late-entry 1956 film noir as an insurance investigator looking into a daring $500,000 train robbery – which he masterminded! The low-budget seams show, but so does a talented cast including Felicia Farr, Jack Klugman, Wesley Addy, John Marley, King Calder and Alan Reed.
“TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL: I WILL WALK WITH YOU” (CBS DVD/Paramount): Heaven can wait for Roma Downey and Della Reese in this two-part episode that marked the final installment of the long-running, award-winning CBS series, available on DVD ($14.99 retail).
THE VOICE OF HOLLYWOOD (Alpha Home Entertainment): A DVD compilation ($7.98 retail) of rare vintage shorts made by Tiffany Productions from 1930-’31 spotlighting popular celebrities of the day, including Mary Pickford, Buster Keaton, Robert Montgomery, William Powell, Lew Ayres, Lupe Velez, Cliff Edwards, Bebe Daniels and Ben Lyon, Reginald Denny, Harry Langdon, Al St. John and others.
THE WRECKING CREW (Magnolia Home Entertainment): An informative, illuminating, award-winning documentary tracing the history of West Coast session musicians and the countless albums they worked on from the 1950s-’70s (including ones by Frank Sinatra, Nancy Sinatra, The Beach Boys and more). Producer and firsttime director Denny Tedesco is the son of the late session musician Tommy Tedesco, to whom this film is very much a tribute. Completed in 2008, untangling music clearances took over six years, but the wait was worth it. A must for music mavens. Rated PG. !
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2015, Mark Burger.