Video Vault – 1.15.20
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
DVD PICK OF THE WEEK
STREET PEOPLE (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Roger Moore and Stacy Keach – touted in the trailer as “the most lovable bad guys in the business” – make an oddly enjoyable duo in this oddly enjoyable, if rather confusing, 1976 shoot-’em-up (originally titled Gli esecutori and also known as The Executors and The Sicilian Cross).
Moore, then riding high as James Bond, plays Ulysses (!), a Mafia counselor (or consigliere) investigating a $3 million theft of heroin, smuggled to San Francisco in an enormous Sicilian cross donated to the church by Ulysses’ uncle, mob boss Salvatore Francesco (Ivo Garrani). Keach plays Ulysses’ sidekick, wise-cracking race-car driver Charlie Hanson, who’s in it for the money.
None of it makes much sense, but there are plenty of chases and shoot-outs, nice San Francisco locations, some gratuitous nudity, and six (!) credited screenwriters, including director Maurice (Maurizio) Lucidi, Randall Kleiser (future director of Grease) and, most remarkably, Ernest Tidyman (Oscar winner for The French Connection).
This marked the first film packaged by fledgling Carolco Pictures, later a major Hollywood player (First Blood, Total Recall, Terminator 2) before flaring out in the mid-’90s. Everybody starts somewhere.
Both the DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) include audio commentaries, retrospective interview with Keach, theatrical trailer, radio spot, and more. Rated R. **
“BIG LITTLE LIES”: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): The coastal California town of Monterey continues to reel with guilt and suspicion in all seven episodes from the 2019 season of the award-winning HBO drama series adapted from executive producer Liane Moriarty’s best-selling novel by creator/executive producer/writer David E. Kelley, boasting an all-star cast including executive producers Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley, Zoe Kravitz, Laura Dern, Alexander Skarsgard, Adam Scott, Kathryn Newton, James Tupper, and no less a series newcomer than Meryl Streep. available on DVD ($29.98 retail).
CATCH-22 (Paramount Home Entertainment): George Clooney and Grant Heslov served as executive producers and directors on this six-part Hulu mini-series based on Joseph Heller’s ground-breaking anti-war novel, starring Christopher Abbott as Yossarian, the increasingly unnerved Everyman bombardier desperate to avoid combat during World War II, backed by a star-studded cast including Clooney, Heslov, Hugh Laurie, Kyle Chandler, Kevin J. O’Connor, and Giancarlo Giannini. Emmy nominations for Outstanding Sound Editing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Special and Outstanding Special Visual Effects in a Supporting Role. The two-disc DVD ($29.98 retail) includes bonus features.
COLD WAR (The Criterion Collection): Pawel Pawlikowski’s award-winning, semi-autobiographical 2018 romantic drama (originally titled Zimna wojna) details the passionate, long-standing (and long-suffering) relationship between music impresario Tomasz Kot and ambitious singer Joanna Kulig from the late 1940s to the 1960s. Evocative and beautifully shot by Lukasz Zal, but the real star here is Pawlikowski; the actors seem almost incidental, and the denouement is hardly unexpected. Academy Award nominations for Best Director, Best Cinematography, and Best Foreign Language Film. In Croatian, French, German, Italian, Polish, and Russian with English subtitles, both the DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) boast bonus features including behind-the-scenes documentaries, interviews, and more. Rated R. ***
THE GOLDFINCH (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): Oakes Fegley and Ansel Elgort star in director John Crowley’s R-rated adaptation of Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize-winning best-seller, as the younger and older incarnations of a man who pilfered the titular Carel Farbritius painting from the Metropolitan Museum of Art following a terrorist bombing that killed his mother, with a star-studded ensemble cast including Nicole Kidman, Owen Wilson, Aneurin Barnard, Finn Wolfhard, Sarah Paulson, Ashleigh Cummings, Willa Fitzgerald, Denis O’Hare, Boyd Gaines, and Jeffrey Wright, available on DVD ($28.98 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($35.99 retail), each boasting bonus features.
THE GUN RUNNERS (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): This 1956 Audie Murphy vehicle, based on Ernest Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not, casts the World War II hero as the captain of a charter boat in Key West smuggling guns to Cuba to arm the revolution. Watchable, but hardly in a class with Howard Hawks’ 1946 Bogart/Bacall version, despite trim direction by Don Siegel and a cast including Eddie Albert (nicely villainous), Patricia Owens, Everett Sloane, Paul Birch, Jack Elam, and Richard Jaeckel, available on DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail). **
THE HELLBENDERS (Kino Lorber Studios Classics): Like many Hollywood stars, Joseph Cotten saddled up for spaghetti-Western action, here as a deranged Confederate colonel in director Sergio Corbucci’s 1967 shoot-’em-up (originally titled I crudeli and also released as The Cruel Ones), who, joined by his sons, steals a fortune in order to reignite the Civil War, only to have comely prostitute Norma Bengell ultimately trigger their self-destruction. A leathery if predictable parable, highlighted by Cotten’s lip-smacking turn and – what else? – an Ennio Morricone score. Both the DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) include audio commentary and theatrical trailer. **½
THE LOUDEST VOICE (Showtime Entertainment/CBS Home Entertainment/Paramount Home Entertainment): Russell Crowe stars as media mogul Roger Ailes in this seven-part Showtime mini-series based on Gabriel Sherman’s non-fiction best-seller The Loudest Voice in the Room, detailing his meteoric rise as the head of Fox News and his ultimate downfall after multiple charges of sexual harassment. Naomi Watts, Sienna Miller, Seth MacFarlane, Simon McBurney (as Rupert Murdoch), Annabelle Wallis, and Aleksa Palladino also star. The three-disc DVD ($39.98 retail) includes a behind-the-scenes featurette.
MEHSAMPUR (IndiePix Films): Kabir Chowdhry’s award-winning mock documentary follows the misadventures of bumbling documentary filmmaker Devrath Joshi (in his screen debut) as he attempts to chronicle the career of a legendary folk duo murdered in the titular village in 1988. In English, Hindi, and Punjabi with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.95 retail).
RUNNING DELILAH (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): In the title role, ever-fetching Kim Cattrall portrays a secret agent murdered on an undercover assignment but resurrected as a cybernetic warrior, with Billy Zane as her partner and Diana Rigg (wasted) as their superior. Originally shot in 1992 as an ABC pilot, this was not broadcast until 1994 and released theatrically to some overseas territories. This was the last, and least, American project for director Richard Franklin before returning to his native Australia. Rated PG-13. *½
A SILENT VOICE – THE MOVIE (ELEVEN ARTS Anime Studio/Shout! Factory): Director Naoko Yamada’s award-winning adaptation of Yoshitoki Oima’s acclaimed manga (originally titled Eiga Koe no katachi) follows a young boy’s path to redemption after suffering guilt for bullying a deaf female classmate years before in grade school. In Japanese and Japanese sign language with English subtitles, available on DVD ($16.97 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($26.99 retail), each replete with bonus features.
THE SNOWMAN TREK (Breaking Glass Pictures): Producer/director Ben Clark’s feature documentary (originally titled Bhutan: The Snowman’s Trek) follows four ultra-marathon athletes (Timothy Olson, Anna Frost, Chris Ord, and Clark himself) as they brave the elements and punishing landscape to attempt to set a new speed record in the Himalayan Mountains, available on DVD ($22.95 retail), replete with bonus features including extended clips and interviews.
SOCRATES (Breaking Glass Pictures): UNCSA School of Filmmaking Alexandre Moratto makes an auspicious, award-winning feature debut with this raw, uncompromising character study starring newcomer Christian Malheiros in the title role of a gay teenager trying to survive in Sao Paolo, Brazil, following his mother’s sudden death. Winston-Salem filmmaker Ramin Bahrani was a producer and Fernando Meirelles (who hails from Sao Paolo) an executive producer. In Portuguese with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.99 retail), replete with bonus features. ***
STEVEN UNIVERSE THE MOVIE (Cartoon Network): The title tells all in this feature-length, animated musical/adventure based on the award-winning Cartoon Network series, co-written, produced, and directed by series creator/executive producer Rebecca Sugar, in which the title character (voiced by Zach Callison) leads his mystical Crystal Gems team against a new threat to Earth, available on DVD ($19.98 retail), replete with bonus features.
THE STORY OF TEMPLE DRAKE (The Criterion Collection): Miriam Hopkins stars in the title role of this pre-Code 1933 adaptation of William Faulkner’s Sanctuary, as a reckless Southern Belle who falls into the clutches of lusty gangster Jack La Rue and sees her life ruined as a result. Considered scandalous in its day – it was banned in some states and withdrawn and others – and critically lambasted as a result, it was, not surprisingly, a box-office hit. Dated and melodramatic in retrospect, but Hopkins gives it all she’s got and La Rue seeks no sympathy in his role. A fascinating, occasionally creaky curio. Both the DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) include critical discussions and more. ***
THE TITFIELD THUNDERBOLT (Film Movement Classics): Fresh from the success of The Lavender Hill Mob (1951), director Charles Crichton and screenwriter T.E.B. Clarke reunited for this charming 1953 Ealing Studios comedy (its first in color), wherein the denizens of the titular village band together to save their railway stop upon learning of its imminent closure, with a sparkling ensemble cast including Stanley Holloway and Sid James (also Lavender Hill alumni), Naunton Wayne, John Gregson, George Relph, Godfrey Tearle, Jack MacGowran, Reginald Beckwith, Gabrielle Brune, and the incorrigible Hugh Griffith. The collector’s-edition Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) includes retrospective featurettes and interviews, original trailer, and more. ***
WHITE SQUALL (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Ridley Scott’s fact-based 1996 sea-faring saga, based on Charles Gieg’s best-seller, dramatizes the ill-fated 1961 journey of the Albatross, allegedly because of the titular freak occurrence. Jeff Bridges is stalwart as the skipper, with Caroline Goodall, Scott Wolf (as Gieg), John Savage, Ryan Phillippe, Jeremy Sisto, Jason Marsdon, David Selby, Zeljko Ivanek, Ethan Embry, and James Rebhorn in support. Great cinematography by Hugh Johnson, but Scott’s tendency toward lengthiness is much in evidence here. Both the DVD ($14.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($19.95 retail) boast bonus features. Rated PG-13. **½
(Copyright 2020, Mark Burger)