Video Vault – Jan 1, 2020
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
PICK OF THE WEEK
TUNES OF GLORY (The Criterion Collection): Ronald Neame directed this superb 1960 character study, scripted by James Kennaway from his first novel. The result is the film that Neame was the proudest of, which I know for a fact – because he told me himself, having called to thank me when he’d read my review of its first DVD release years ago.
Much of the drama takes place in and around a Scottish Highland military barracks, where acting commanding officer Maj. Jock Sinclair (Alec Guinness) is to be succeeded by Lt. Col. Basil Barrow (John Mills). The gregarious, hard-drinking Sinclair is much loved by the men, while Barrow is more a rigid disciplinarian. Thus begins a clash of wills that will have devastating repercussions on both men.
Guinness and Mills both give brilliant, nuanced performances that further enhance their conflict, and a top-notch supporting cast includes Susannah York (in her screen debut), Dennis Price, Gordon Jackson, Kay Walsh, Percy Herbert, and Allan Cuthbertson. Kennaway received an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay, and Mills won Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival that year.
Both the DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) include vintage interviews and theatrical trailer. ****
ACCELERATION (Cinedigm): Writer/co-director Michael Merino’s shoot-’em up stars producer Natalie Burn as a mother who embarks on a vengeful rampage when Russian gangster Dolph Lundgren kidnsaps her son, with Sean Patrick Flanery, Chuck Liddell, Danny Trejo, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Jason London, Al Sapienza, and associate producer Sally Kirkland caught in the crossfire, available on DVD ($16.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($19.97 retail).
BARBARA RUBIN AND THE EXPLODING N.Y. UNDERGROUND (Juno Films/MVD Entertainment Group): Producer/director/editor Chuck Smith’s award-winning documentary feature is an appropriately trippy, jazzy profile of underground filmmaker Barbara Rubin (1945-’80), one of the pioneers of the Big Apple’s cinematic sub-culture in the 1960s, encountering such luminaries as Jonas Mekas, Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg, Andy Warhol, and Shirley Clarke, creating the controversial Christmas on Earth (1963), then abandoning her career to embrace orthodox Judaism and dying nearly forgotten in France. A fascinating glimpse into a world long gone, and a heartfelt one. ***
BETTY BLUE (The Criterion Collection): Writer/director Jean-Jacques Beineix’s controversial, award-winning 1985 psychological drama, adapted from a Philippe Dijan novel, stars Jean-Hugues Anglade as an aspiring novelist whose passionate, all-consuming romance with the title character (Beatrice Dalle, in an uninhibited screen debut) is darkened by her mounting madness. Explicit, extremely overlong, and not for all tastes, this divided both audiences and critics but earned an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. In French with English subtitles, both the DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) include the 2013 documentary Blue Notes and Bungalows, video shorts, vintage television interviews, and more. **½
CREATING WOODSTOCK (Cinema Libre Studio): Mick Richards, who attended the Woodstock festival as a teenager, celebrates its 50th anniversary by making his feature debut as writer/editor/producer/director of this affectionate and engaging documentary that goes behind the scenes of one of rock ‘n’ roll’s best-known events, featuring interviews with organizers and participants. Even for die-hard devotees, this offers an interesting, reasonably fresh perspective. The DVD ($19.95 retail) includes bonus features. ***
“DAVID SUSSKIND ARCHIVE: INTERVIEW WITH DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.” (MVD Visual/MVD Entertainment Group): This self-explanatory DVD ($19.95 retail) sees the Emmy-winning producer and talk-show host in conversation with the Civil Rights pioneer, originally broadcast on June 9, 1963 on WPIX-TV in New York.
“DOC MARTIN”: SERIES 9 (Acorn TV): Martin Clunes returns as the quirky, acerbic physician in all eight episodes from the 2019 season of the popular, award-winning British comedy series, co-starring Eileen Atkins, Caroline Catz, Joe Absolom, and Ian McNeice, with guest appearances by Tom Conti, Danny Huston, Conleth Hill, and Caroline Quentin, available on DVD and Blu-ray (each $39.99 retail), each boasting bonus features.
“FAMILY GUY”: SEASON SEVENTEEN (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): A three-DVD collection ($19.97 retail) of all 20 episodes – plus bonus features – from the 2018-’19 season of long-running, Emmy-winning Fox Network animated comedy series, created by executive producer Seth MacFarlane, spoofing suburbia as it details the misadventures of the Griffin family in the fictional Rhode Island burg of Quahog, featuring the voices of MacFarlane (Emmy winner for Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance), Alex Boorstin (Emmy nominee for Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance), Lacey Chabert, Mila Kunis, Seth Green, and Mike Henry, plus guest appearances by Sam Elliott, Denis Leary, Niecy Nash, Sarah Paulson, Mandy Moore, and others.
GAGS THE CLOWN (Doppelganger Releasing): Yet another killer clown is at large – this time in Wisconsin – in writer/director Adam Krause’s award-winning debut feature, an expansion of his 2016 horror short Gags, starring Eric Heuvelman (in his feature debut), encoring in the title role. Both the DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($24.95 retail) boast bonus features including audio commentary, featurettes, Gags shorts, and more.
AN ISRAELI LOVE STORY (Film Movement): Producer/director Dan Wolman’s 2017 adaptation of Prino Gary’s solo autobiographical play (originally titled Sipur Ahava Eretz-Israeli) dramatizes the relationship between an aspiring actress girl (Adi Bielski) and a passionate political activist (Avrahim Aviv Alush)in the tumultuous days before Israel’s statehood. In Hebrew with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.95 retail).
LA MARSEILLAISE (Kino Classics): Jean Renoir’s epic 1938 dramatization of the early days of the French Revolution was mostly ignored upon release but has grown in stature over the years, particularly as it alluded to the fast-approaching Second World War II, with Renoir’s father, noted actor Pierre Renoir, portraying the ill-starred monarch King Louis XVI. In French with English subtitles, both the DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) include audio commentary, archival interview with Renoir, and booklet essay.
THE MIRACLE OF THE LITTLE PRINCE (Film Movement): Filmmaker Marjoleine Boonstra’s award-winning documentary feature (originally titled Het Wonder van Le Petit Prince) explores the legacy of Antoine de Saint Exupery’s celebrated 1943 children’s book The Little Prince, the most translated book in the world except for the Bible, and those admirers who have translated it into the languages of Tibetan, Tamazight (Africa), Sami (Finland/Scandanavia), and Nawat (El Salvator) – languages that are virtually on the verge of extinction. In English, Nawat, Sami, and Tamazight with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.95 retail).
READY OR NOT (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, of the Radio Silence filmmaking collective, co-directed this giddy, gory shocker starring Samara Weaving as a newlywed bride whose wedding night involves her playing a (literally) life-or-death game of hide-and-seek at the behest of her wealthy in-laws, lest their souls be damned. Brett Jutkiewicz’s stylish cinematography and a zealous supporting cast (including Andie MacDowell, Henry Czerny, Adam Brody, Mark O’Brien, and Nicky Guadagni) help obscure the sheer silliness, and the filmmakers know enough to keep things moving quickly, but it’s still fairly standard scare fare, available on DVD ($14.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($19.96 retail). Rated R. **
“THE RETURNED”: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON (Music Box Films Home Entertainment): Writer/director Fabrice Gobert created this award-winning French television series (originally titled Les Revenants), in which the inhabitants of a remote village are confronted by an amazing phenomenon when the recently dead mysteriously return to life and resume their place in society. The ensemble cast includes Anne Consigny, Frederic Pierrot, Clotilde Hesme, Celine Sallette, Samir Guesmi, and Gregory Gadebois. In French with English subtitles, all eight episodes from the 2015 season are available on DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($34.95 retail).
“TESTOSTERONE”: VOLUME FOUR (Dekkoo Films/TLA Releasing): The latest in the ongoing series of critically acclaimed, gay-themed short films compiled on one DVD ($24.99 retail): Writer/director Neal Mulani’s Fish Tank, writer/director Ori Arahon’s Rubber Dolphin (Dolfin megumi), prodicer/director J.C. Calciano’s award-winning The Handyman, writer/producer/director/co-star Robert John Torres’s Writhing, and writer/producer/editor/director Ben Empey’s Faces.
THESE PECULIAR DAYS (TLA Releasing): Chucho E. Quintero’s award-winning comedy drama (originally titled Los dias particularies) focuses on a group of teenagers who celebrate their high school graduation during a weekend in the woods in which their loyalties are tested and sexual tendencies indulged. In Spanish with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.99 retail), replete with interviews, deleted scenes, and music video.
TRICK (RLJE Films): Director/co-writer Patrick Lussier’s stylish shocker stars Mike Epps as a detective obsessed with the titular serial killer who strikes every Halloween, each time bloodier than the last, with Ellen Adair, Kristina Reyes, Jamie Kennedy, co-writer Todd Farmer, and reliable Tom Atkins also on hand. Epps bring a touch of class to the gory goings-on, although the blood and guts tend to overwhelm the storyline. Both the DVD ($27.97 retail) and Blu-ray ($28.97 retail) include behind-the-scenes featurette. **
WATER AND SUGAR: CARLO DI PALMA – THE COLOURS OF LIFE (Kino Lorber): Writer/director Fariborz Kamkari’s award-winning 2016 documentary feature (originally titled Acqua e zucchero: Carlo Di Palma – i colori della vita) offers an appropriately colorful and stylish chronicle of the life and career of master cinematographer and sometime director Carlo Di Palma (1925-2004), who began his career as one of the pioneers of the Italian Neo-realist movement, as told to his widow, producer Adriana Chiesa Di Palma, by friends, admirers, historians, and such acclaimed filmmakers as Woody Allen, Wim Wenders, Ken Loach, Francesco Rosi, Volker Schlondorff, Lina Wertmuller, Ettore Scola, and many others, punctuated by scenes from Di Palma’s various films. In English and Italian with English subtitles. ***
WHERE’S MY ROY COHN? (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Producer/director Matt Tyrnauer’s PG-13-rated documentary explores the controversial life and career of attorney Roy Cohn (1927-’86), the Department of Justice prosecutor who joined forces with Sen. Joe McCarthy to ferret out Communists in the 1950s, later represented the likes of Donald Trump, George Steinbrenner, Aristotle Onassis and John Gotti, was later disbarred by the New York State Supreme Court, and died of AIDS not long after. Both the DVD ($25.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($24.99 retail) boast bonus features including audio commentary.
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2019, Mark Burger)