DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: THE FRONT PAGE (Kino Lorber)
This classic 1931 screen adaptation of the Ben Hecht/ Charles MacArthur Broadway smash, produced by Howard Hughes and directed by Lewis Milestone, is considered by many to be a template from which subsequent screwball comedies sprang.
Hildy Johnson (Pat O’Brien) is a tenacious Chicago crime reporter determined to settle down and marry, but not if managing editor Walter Burns (Adolphe Menjou) has anything to say about it. He badgers, cajoles and manipulates Hildy by dangling before him the one thing he loves most, even more than fiancee Peggy (Mary Brian) – a front-page story.
After almost 85 years, the film and story have dated somewhat, but The Front Page is still first-rate entertainment – and still the quintessential newspaper film. The entire cast sparkles: George E. Stone, Frank McHugh, Mae Clarke and delightful Edward Everett Horton, but it’s the crackling repartee between Menjou (who earned an Oscar nomination as Best Actor) and O’Brien that remains timeless. The film also earned Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Best Director.
The DVD retails for $19.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. Both have been remastered in highdefinition and both include audio commentary and vintage radio productions.
APPETITES (RLJ Entertainment/ Image Entertainment): Cult status likely for this stylishly sleazy slasher send-up starring Lauren Parkinson (very easy on the eyes) as a small-town vixen who pursues and devours unwary men, abetted by hulking brother Scott Barrows (as “Bubba”) – until guitar-strumming serial killer Brett Roberts (performing his own tunes) arrives on the scene. A little longish and not for the squeamish, but an amusing diversion, with Chris Cleveland as a hard-boiled cop and scene-stealer Travis Eberhard as a diminutive motel clerk.
“THE COMEBACK” (HBO): Lisa Kudrow scored an Emmy nomination as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, reprising her role as a former sitcom star desperate to make a Hollywood comeback in all 21 episodes from the 2005 and 2014 seasons of the HBO series created and executive-produced by Kudrow and Michael Patrick King, available in a four-DVD collection ($19.98 retail) replete with special features.
CUT BANK (LionsGate): TV director Matt Shakman makes his feature debut with this uneven but award-winning pseudo-noir in the Coen Brothers mode, made even more so by Coen alumni Billy Bob Thornton, Michael Stuhlbarg and John Malkovich in the cast and because Shakman has also helmed episodes of “Fargo,” depicting dark doings and doublecrosses in the titular Montana town. Liam Hemsworth, Oliver Platt, Teresa Palmer and Bruce Dern (very funny) round out the cast. Rated R.
HONEY (Kino Lorber): Actress Valeria Golina makes her directorial debut with this award-winning Italian-language drama (originally titled Miele), starring Jasmine Trinca as a student who illegally obtains drugs to help the terminally ill die with dignity – until she meets a “client” (Carlo Cecchi) in perfect health bent on committing suicide. The DVD retails for $29.95.
HOT PURSUIT (Warner Home Video): Producer Reese Witherspoon plays a cop and executive producer Sofia Vergara a mob wife who embark on a predictable, pedestrian road romp when pursued by corrupt cops and other baddies in this tepid updating of 1988’s Midnight Run, available on DVD ($28.98 retail) and DVD/ Blu-ray combo ($35.99 retail). Rated R.
I REALLY HATE MY EX! (LionsGate): In executive producer/writer/director Troy Byer’s R-rated adaptation of her book Ex Free (the film’s original title), she teams with Daphnee Duplaix and Shari Headley to kidnap their exes. Yes, it’s a comedy. The DVD retails for $26.98. President Eisenhower’s stroke, North Carolinian Althea Gibson’s US Open and Wimbledon championships, the World Series, and more are covered in this self
KUNG FU KILLER (Well Go USA Entertainment): Donnie Yen stars in this award-winning crime thriller (originally titled Yi ge ren de wu lin) as a martial-arts master sprung from prison to track down an elusive assassin. In Cantonese and Mandarin with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.98 retail).
LAMBERT & STAMP (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Director James D. Cooper’s R-rated documentary chronicles the lives and careers of Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp (brother of actor Terence), who discovered and managed the British rock group The Who, available on DVD ($30.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($34.99 retail).
“NEWSREELS OF 1957” (Alpha Home Entertainment): The Sputnik launch, explanatory DVD collection ($7.98 retail) of vintage shorts released by Universal to theaters back in ‘57. Alpha Home Entertainment has also released earlier and subsequent “Newsreels” DVD compilations, each retailing for $7.98.
THE PACT 2 (IFC Midnight/MPI Media Group): Camilla Luddington is spooked by nightmares in writer/directors Dallas Richard Hallam and Patrick Horvath’s follow-up to the 2012 shocker, with Caity Lotz reprising her earlier role (but not for long!). The DVD retails for $24.98, the Bluray for $29.98.
RON JEREMY: LIFE AFTER THE BUFFET (Breaking Glass Pictures): Hedda Muskat’s good-natured documentary follows everyone’s favorite porn star as he deals with a life-threatening heart ailment. The uneven sound levels can be maddening, but worth seeing for Ron’s truly unique rendition of Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball.”
RUN ALL NIGHT (Warner Home Video): Liam Neeson’s third pairing with director/executive producer Jaume Collet- Serra casts him as a burned-out, boozesoaked ex-hitman who flees with his son (Joel Kinnaman) through New York City after killing the son (Boyd Holbrook) of former criminal compatriot Ed Harris, who (naturally) vows revenge and unleashes cold-blooded assassin Common after them. This stylish, tightly-compressed melodrama rambles a bit in later stages but benefits from a solid cast including Vincent D’Onofrio, Bruce McGill, Holt Mc- Callany and an unbilled Nick Nolte. The DVD retails for $28.98, the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $44.95. Rated R.
SUPREMACY (Well Go USA Entertainment): On the day he’s paroled from prison, white supremacist Joe Anderson and girlfriend Dawn Olivieri kill a cop and hold captive the family of black ex-con Danny Glover. This well-intentioned but overlong melodrama tends to overstate its case.
“VINTAGE WE STERN DOUBLE FEA- TURES” (Alpha Home Entertainment): The title tells all in these DVD twin-bills): Bob Custer in Ambush Valley (1936) and Bill Cody in The Restless Buckaroo (1935); Lane Chandler in Beyond the Law and Mahlon Hamilton in Code of Honor (both 1930), both directed by J.P. McGowan; Tom Tyler in West of Cheyenne (1931) and Jack Perrin in Rawhide Trail (1934). Each retails for $7.98.
THE WATER DIVINER (Warner Home Video): Russell Crowe makes his directorial debut and stars in this R-rated, awardwinning drama about an Australian farmer seeking his sons in 1919, missing since the Battle of Gallipoli, available on DVD ($28.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.98 retail).
WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS (Paramount): Jemaine Clement and producer Taika Waititi wrote, directed and star in this award-winning, instant cult favorite, a feature-length expansion of their 2006 short, detailing the day-to-day (and night-to-night) comings and goings of a group of vampires (also including Jonathan Brugh and Ben Fransham) in New Zealand for the benefit of a documentary film crew. Funny, gory, knowing and affectionate – a winner all around. The DVD retails for $29.99, the Blu-ray for $39.99. Rated R.
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2015, Mark Burger.