MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
DVD PICK OF THE WEEK
EXTRAORDINARY TALES (Cinedigm): The immortal legacy of Edgar Allan Poe is celebrated in this imaginative, inspired, animated anthology from filmmaker Raul Garcia.
Many films “adapted” from Poe’s work have had to expand what were originally poems or short stories, but Garcia sticks to the text, allowing mood and suspense to be conveyed in the evocative imagery and the irresistible narration of Christopher Lee (The Fall of the House of Usher), Julian Sands (The Facts in the Case of Mr. Valdemar), Bela Lugosi (The Tell-Tale Heart), Guillermo del Toro (The Pit and the Pendulum) and Roger Corman (The Masque of the Red Death).
This is a real treat for animation buffs and devotees of Poe’s work, and a surefire cult favorite. The DVD retails for $14.93, the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $29.95. ***
BEAT STREET (Olive Films): Harry Belafonte and former studio head David V. Picker produced this PG-rated 1984 urban drama set against the burgeoning backdrop of the hip-hop movement in New York City, available on DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail)
BLACK CHURCH, INC. (Cinedigm): Writer/producer/director Todd E. Williams’ thoughtful, credible documentary examines “mega-pastors,” “mega-churches,” and high-profile clergymen oftentimes referred to as “prophets for profit.” ***
“BLACK WORK” (RLJ Entertainment/Acorn): Sheridan Smith headlines this three-part ITV mini-series created by Matt Charman (Oscar-nominated screenwriter of Bridge of Spies), as a police constable who uncovers a treacherous web of deception and duplicity after her undercover-detective husband (Kenny Doughty) is murdered, available on DVD ($34.99 retail).
“BRIAN REGAN: LIVE FROM RADIO CITY MUSIC HALL” (Comedy Central/Paramount): The title tells all in this stand-up comedy special, available on DVD ($14.99 retail).
“CHARLES BRADLEY & MENAHAN STREET BAND: LIVE FROM THE HOUSE OF SOUL” (Daptone Records/MVD Entertainment Group): The title tells all in this concert documentary filmed in Bushwick, Brooklyn, available on DVD ($16.95 retail).
CLASS (Olive Films): The Blu-ray bow ($29.95 retail) of the awkward 1983 teen comedy with Andrew McCarthy (in his screen debut) as a prep-school student whose affair with older woman Jacqueline Bisset is complicated by the fact that she’s the mother of his roommate Rob Lowe. Vaguely smarmy but helped somewhat by a cast including Cliff Robertson, Alan Ruck, Casey Siemaszko and then-newcomers John Cusack, Virginia Madsen and Lolita Davidovich. Cusack’s brother Joan and father Dick can also be glimpsed. Rated R. **
CRIMSON PEAK (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): Even a visionary filmmaker has his off movies, and so it is for Guillermo del Toro and this Gothic chiller starring Mia Wasikowska as the terrified young bride of mysterious Tom Hiddleston in the remote (and haunted) Gothic manor he shares with his sister Jessica Chastain in the English countryside. Sumptuous period design and cinematography all but trample a simple, unduly protracted storyline that owes more than a bit to Edgar Allan Poe, Dario Argento, Roger Corman, Hammer Films, and any number of cinematic and literary inspirations. The DVD retails for $29.98, the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $34.98. Rated R. *
“DA VINCI’S DEMONS”: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Tom Riley’s back in action as the young Leonardo da Vinci, battling the forces of evil in Renaissance-era Rome, in all 10 episodes from the 2015 season of the award-winning STARZ Original fantasy series created by David S. Goyer, available on DVD ($44.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($54.99 retail).
ESTRANGED (Well Go USA Entertainment): Director Adam Levins’ debut feature stars Amy Manson as a woman whose homecoming after a near-fatal accident proves fraught with suspicion and paranoia, available on DVD ($24.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.98 retail).
“FROM DUSK TILL DAWN: THE SERIES”: THE COMPLETE SEASON TWO (Entertainment One): DJ Controna and Zane Holtz are back as the sibling desperado duo Seth and Richie Gecko, in all 10 episodes from the 2015 season of the El Rey network series, based on executive producer/creator/sometime-director Robert Rodriguez’ 1996 cult hit, available on DVD ($39.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($49.98 retail) â€“ both boasting bonus features.
“GIRLS”: THE COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON (HBO): Lena Dunham’s still looking for love â€“ usually in the wrong places â€“ in all 10 episodes from the 2015 season of the award-winning HBO comedy series created by Dunham. Emmy nominations for Adam Driver (Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series) and Gaby Hoffmann (Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series), available on DVD ($26.97 retail) and Blu-ray ($34.98 retail) â€“ both with bonus features.
HOW TO EAT YOUR WATERMELON IN WHITE COMPANY (AND ENJOY IT) (Music Box Films Home Entertainment): Writer/director Joe Angio’s entertaining, award-winning 2005 documentary feature traces the life and career of filmmaker/playwright/social activist Mario Van Peebles (of Sweet Sweeback fame). The DVD retails for $19.95. ***
MEMORIES OF THE SWORD (Well Go USA Entertainment): Park Heung-sik’s historical martial-arts saga (originally titled Hyeomnyeo: Kar-ui gi-eok) involves a long-simmering quest for revenge and retribution during the Goryeo Dynasty. In Korean with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.98 retail).
MI-5 (LionsGate): Kit Harrington joins series regulars Peter Firth, Tuppence Middleton, Laura Pulver and Winston-Salem’s own Jennifer Ehle in this R-rated thriller depicting a terrorist trackdown in London, spun off from the award-winning BBC series (originally titled Spooks) that aired 2002-’11, available on DVD ($19.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($24.98 retail).
MOSQUITO-MAN (Big Screen Entertainment Group/CAV Distributing): Director/screenwriter Michael Manasseri stars in this low-budget superhero/monster spoof (originally titled Sucker) as an unemployed, hen-pecked sad sack who undergoes a mutation transformation after being dosed with an untested mosquito-repellent formula. Very much in the campy Troma vein a la Toxic Avenger, so Troma founder Lloyd Kaufman turns up as Manasseri’s flatulent boss, but Monty Bane steals the show as a hard-boiled cop. The two-DVD collector’s edition retails for $29.95. **
THE MUTILATOR (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): Writer/producer/director Buddy Cooper’s one and only feature, originally titled Fall Break and released in 1985, was one of the last gasps of the first slasher era, in which dumb teens partying on an island are stalked by — well, you get the idea. If nothing else, the tagline was memorable: “By sword. By pick. By axe. Bye bye!” The DVD/Blu-ray combo ($39.95 retail) includes both the R-rated and unrated versions of the film, just so you can waste time comparing the two. *
NIGHTMARES (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Originally made for television, Joseph Sargent’s so-so 1983 horror anthology was released to theaters but found its following via countless cable broadcasts. A good cast includes Emilio Estevez, Cristina Raines, Veronica Cartwright, Lance Henriksen and Richard Masur. The special-edition Blu-ray ($29.99 retail) includes audio commentary and more. Rated R. **
“POWER RANGERS TIME FORCE”: THE COMPLETE SERIES (Saban Brands/Shout! Factory): A five-DVD collection ($19.97 retail) of all 40 episodes from the entire 2001 series run of the popular adventure/fantasy series, one of many off-shoots of “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.”
PRESSURE POINT (Olive Films): The Blu-ray bow ($29.95 retail) of the 1962 psychological melodrama in which psychiatrist Sidney Poitier treats Nazi sympathizer Bobby Darin during World War II. Earnest but heavy-handed, although the actors (including Peter Falk) bring conviction to their roles. **Â½
SERIAL (Olive Films): Award-winning TV director Bill Persky made his feature debut with this under-appreciated 1980 adaptation of Cyra McFadden’s best-selling satire about the social and sexual mores of ’70s-era Marin County, Cal., with a fun cast including Martin Mull, Tuesday Weld, Sally Kellerman, Tom Smothers, Bill Macy, Nita Talbot, Pamela Bellwood, Peter Bonerz, Stacey Nelkin and Christopher Lee, the latter hilarious as a corporate head-hunter who moonlights as a gay biker leader (!) on weekends. The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. Rated R. ***
SICARIO (LionsGate): Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro headline Denis Villeneuve’s topical drug-cartel thriller, which earned Oscar nominations for Best Cinematography (Roger Deakins’ 13th nomination, thus far without a win), Best Original Score and Best Sound Editing. Well-made and well-acted, especially by Del Toro, yet it never quite peaks. The DVD retails for $29.95, the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $39.99. Rated R. **Â½
“SPIRAL”: SEASON 5 (MHz Networks): A four-DVD collection ($39.95) of all 12 episodes from the 2014 season of the award-winning, French-language crime series (originally titled Engrenages) that examines every perspective of criminal investigations in Paris, with an ensemble cast including Caroline Proust, Audrey Fleurot, Philippe Duclos, Gregory Fitoussi and Thierry Godard
TED 2 (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): The bear is back, again voiced by writer/producer/director Seth MacFarlane, reunited with best bud Mark Wahlberg in this scattershot sequel to the 2012 smash hit. Giovanni Ribisi, Jessica Barth and Sam Jones also encore, with Morgan Freeman, Amanda Seyfried, narrator Patrick Stewart, and a host of celebrity cameos trying to enliven the proceedings. The novelty, however, seems to have worn off a bit. The DVD retails for $29.98, the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $34.98. Rated R. **
TENDERNESS OF THE WOLVES (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): Director Ulli Lommel’s fact-based 1973 German-language thriller (originally titled Die Zartlichkeit der Wolfe), dramatizes the crimes of cannibalistic serial killer Fritz Haarmann (screenwriter Kurt Rabb), also known as “the Butcher of Hanover” and “the Vampire of Hanover.” Produced by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, who also appears in a small role. The special-edition DVD/Blu-ray ($39.98 retail) has been restored in a high-definition transfer and includes retrospective interviews
UNCAGED (RLJ Entertainment): The werewolf legend gets a haphazard working-over as Ben Getz turns teen wolf. EC Comics-style credits and a brief appearance by Gene Jones (apparently assuming the character-actor mantle of the late Pat Hingle) as a crusty shopkeeper highlight this talky, poorly acted shocker, which doesn’t get gory until the last act â€“ too little too late. *
(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